Ever been at a networking event and felt like you shouldn't approach someone because you knew he held a C-level position?
Ever felt jittery about offering an opinion when you knew the other people involved in the conversation had decades of industry experience?
You're not alone. Most of us who network have, at one time or another, felt intimidated about throwing in our two cents when we knew the others involved in the debate were particularly well-respected and connected.
The worst part of succombing to these nerves, though, is that you fail to make a good connection that could tremendously benefit you. We realize the value of strong connections, which is why I think social media has taken off in such a flurry. Consider this: Social media has paved the way for everyone to communicate with one another in a more neutral zone.
Social media has brought down some of the hierarchical barriers that plague traditional business etiquette; on social media platforms, a CEO and a college student can engage in information sharing or friendly debate. A stay at home mom and a corporate executive can trade business knowledge. No longer is there a mentality of “I’m up here, and you’re down there, so I talk and you listen.”
Of course, as with any communication, you're best advised to keep your comments polite and non-combative (it's OK to disagree as long as you are articulate enough to do it respectfully--remember, while someone may "get" a sarcastic comment in person, reading it on the Web, it may land differently, and you could come across as an ass--it's still possible to develop a negative on-line reputation!).
Overall, though, I think it's a positive that social media has evened the playing field. I love the fact that I can start out the day talking with another copywriter on Twitter, then jump into a conversation about SEO on my blog and end up closing work because of an on-line conversation with a CEO, whom I was introduced to via a LinkedIn contact.
Look how social I've become!