A key insight to share from working and socializing in China involves Face (mianzi), the overall perception of one’s abilities, character and standing. A perspective on giving Face is worthwhile for creators and consumers of Social Media.
There are volumes devoted to Face and other Chinese social customs (here is a primer), most of which focus on tactics to save Face. This is a familiar enough concept for Westerners accustomed to a little C.Y.A. In China, however, the effort to preserve one’s standing can lead to sacrifice and subterfuge of the highest order. Face is a big deal.
While looking good in front of the Man is a big part of Face, the real lesson for social marketers comes from the other side of the coin – giving face.
In my China days, I often worked with my company’s CEO and other senior managers. My work also involved me with scores of mid-level managers anonymously grueling away in various corners of our large enterprise. These staffers were the people helping me with presentations, dealing with my jet lagged customers and generally making it possible for me to do my job.
I quickly got in the habit of sharing my enthusiasm for the great work of specific individuals with the big cheeses. My preferred method was to snag a deserving manager as I spied them running past the board room and pull them inside for fifteen seconds of praise in front of their leadership.
This was a genuine effort, but one that I employed to the maximum benefit of those I singled out.
How did I benefit? While I may have gained some political standing (not likely), the real benefit of showing respect for the best and brightest within the company was association. Being vocal and sincere in my praise created a link between me and the recipient, regardless of their place on the org chart.
Giving face is akin to adding a link to your home page or highlighting a great blog post in your own writing. Your association and endorsement lends credibility to the recipient, and to you.
Does this benefit the recipient? Absolutely. Does Chris benefit? Probably, but no more than me or you. I for one think Chris shoots straight, so I am inclined to check out recommended resources I otherwise might miss.
Give it a try! Kick down some positive Face for your partners, new or old, and see how social networking is really just a new angle on an ancient art.
Leave a comment about how the love comes back to you.