Over the past week, I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of Asia-Pacific with half a dozen or so of my Monocle colleagues. We’ve had drinks at an independent inn on Waiheke – an island sitting 30 minutes by ferry from Downtown Auckland – ogled picture-perfect views of the Sydney Opera House from a terrace at the recently refurbished Park Hyatt and braved the humidity outside a bookstore in Singapore’s cosy Tiong Bahru neighbourhood. Tomorrow, we’ll be finishing up the trip at the Monocle shop in Hong Kong.
This hasn’t been an elaborate company retreat nor an itinerary packed full for editorial purposes. Our tour has been built around meeting our friends and subscribers from these four important regions, hosting them for a drink or two and simply having a chat.
From a retired statistician at Australia’s Department of Defence to a Kiwi with a DIY yoghurt company and representatives from the Sarawak media industry, the readers we met at these further afield events were a diverse bunch. And when many of them asked what the purpose of our trip was, some were surprised to hear that they were, in fact, it.
While hackneyed terms such as “global connectivity” are thrown around boardrooms seeking to justify spending chunks of budgets on social media and the teams that manage it, we think being connected globally means actually getting out there and meeting the people who matter to our business. No number of hashtags or pokes can make up for shaking a hand, exchanging a business card and sharing a little bit of face time.
Not only are our subscribers invested in what we do, they’re a constant source of information on their region. The tips they’ll give us on local cafés and shops will often make their way onto the pages of the magazine. And from a self-taught small leather goods craftsman in Singapore to a gallerist bringing Aboriginal art out of Australia, our readers themselves could also inspire a story or two.
Today, many businesses see social media as an essential part of their strategy. They invest time and money in employees who know how to re-tweet, re-blog and regurgitate any notion of “content” that they can lay their hands on.
I’ll be leaving Hong Kong next week with a holder bursting full of business cards and if an email or call pops up from one of my new Antipodean or Asian contacts, I’ll be able to recall their face rather than an online profile.
Being invited to an annual event hosted by a company I follow would far surpass the experience of digesting their hourly tweets. More businesses should move the money they spend on social-media management to creating times and places for meeting core clients and customers. It’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about who your followers actually are.
Aisha Speirs is New York bureau chief for Monocle.