A few weeks ago, I had one of those sudden needs to run to the grocery store. I told myself that I just needed 1 thing – something like salad dressing, I think. Of course, as always happens, I ended up needing a cart, and I found myself wandering up and down each and every aisle. Normally this would not be a noteworthy event, but on this particular day, a voice came over the PA system and said, “If you want a free high quality paring knife, go over to the seafood section in 3 minutes.

Now, in reading Carol Roth’s Entrepreneur Equation, I have come to understand that I have a money sickness – I hate spending money. Because of this ailment, I am still using knives that I bought at the dollar store (I think) when I was in college. A free paring knife sounded awfully good. Of course, a presentation ensued. The man selling knives cut through metal. He cut tomatoes. He cut a hammer. What he really was doing was showing the value of what he was selling, which was a sharp knife. He emphasized that this knife would last a long time – more value. He emphasized the replacement policy – yet more value.

What is your true value? Are you a knife that can cut vegetables, or are you something more?

Why your value matters

Too often, value and personality are situated as opposing forces when people talk about engaging online. When I first started tweeting and blogging, I thought, “Oh, I’d better make sure I’m offering value to my 5-person community.” To me, that meant tweeting links to relevant articles, retweeting big names in the industry, and other things like that. What I didn’t know is that if you only do things like that, if you only try to show your value based on your job or your “personal brand,” you will not seem like a human being. What I also forgot is that your value can stem from just being yourself – from cheering someone up, helping someone out, or offering advice about how on earth to peel an artichoke.

Think about those knife demos. Are you ever going to use a steak knife to cut up a hammer? Probably not. But it’s nice information to have. It’s a way to show value.

How did you answer that question up there?

So be honest. When you saw the question, “What is your value,” what was your first reaction? Your blink reaction? Did you:

• Think about the helpful, informative content you put on your blog site?

• Think about your company and how you are helping people build better…whatever you help people build?

• Pull out your elevator pitch?

If so, think about this: Is that REALLY why people engage with you?

There are tons of blogs out there. There are lots of companies competing against you, probably. Lots of people have elevator pitches. People could almost pick a name out of a Twitter hat and get those qualities. Why do they engage with you? Why do you engage with other people? Maybe…

• You like the same baseball team

• You like the same movies

• You have kids who are the same age

• You always offer a kind word

• You always support a person’s new venture

Sure, that first set of answers is part of your value. But isn’t there a lot more to you? Isn’t there a lot more to the people with whom you engage? Isn’t it that second list that really makes you want to meet people in real life?

So let me ask again

What is your value? Why should people engage with you?

It’s not surprising when a knife cuts a tomato. It’s kind of surprising when a knife cuts a hammer, though. Don’t you think?

You have just read post #7 of The Engagement Series. If you are finding this helpful, feel free to share it with other people whom you think could benefit from the conversation!

Image by Päivi Rytivaara. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/paivimkr