Keeping the Social in Social Media, Part One
Local social media folks say there’s no replacement for a face-to-face connection.
Celebrities do it. Politicians do it. Sport figures, too. Not to mention your neighbor, your high school sweetheart, and the owner of your favorite coffee shop. Social networking is part of our social fabric.
Dictionary.com defines a social network as follows: “a website where one connects with those sharing personal or professional interests, place of origin, education at a particular school, etc.”
- Facebook may be the social network many of us are most familiar with. This is where I started my social media activities, with my students as the earliest friends, followed by a growing number of journalists, then old high school and college friends, relatives, and more journalists.
- Linkedin is a virtual place for professional and career connections. You can post your credentials, share recommendations, and join groups related to your industry and interests.
- Twitter is the mini-blogosphere of social media; say what you’re doing or thinking in 140 characters or less. I like to share news articles about my interests, post Patch news stories, and find news tips. A former student of mine found her first job after college after following her future employer on Twitter.
Among my social network are hundreds of people I have never met in real life. When I do meet someone I first connected with via Twitter, for example, it’s kind of exciting. It feels something like running into a celebrity you’ve long admired. Many people describe the encounter as akin to reuniting with an old friend; you already know a lot about their interests, points of view, even their families and hobbies.
A guiding spirit for social networking
Meetup.com is a social network that helps people with shared interests to find each other, connect online, and then--as the name suggests--meet in real life, at prearranged events. This is the place to find Lori Bowers, of Chesterfield
Bowers is in charge of the St. Louis Entrepreneurs Meetup group. (She is also a Patch Blogger). She told me she’s been into social media for about six years
Can you share a story about a real person you met first via social media, a connection you made in real life that had a positive impact on your professional or social life?
After moving into a new home I was blogging on my personal blog about this beautiful pink tree in my backyard that bloomed overnight. I was curious to know the type of tree and looked to Twitter for advice. Ken Lawler came across my Tweet and responded with the name of my tree. Well, it ended up that not only was Ken a knowledgeable tree enthusiast, but he also owns a mentor capitalist firm, 1 New Idea. We chatted a few times on Twitter and then met in person at the next St. Louis Entrepreneurs Meetup. We soon discovered that we both work with entrepreneurs and share a passion for sales. Soon thereafter, we launched the STL Sales U Meetup. Who would have known the beautiful tree in my background would lead to such a great business venture?
Can you describe your approach to connecting with people via social media on a daily basis; in other words, not so much posting articles or information but actually engaging others in some way. How much time do you spend on this?
Social media is a new form of a conversation. I think about if I were face-to-face with this person, how would I start a conversation? I would either respond to something they are saying or ask a question. Asking a question to your followers usually has a great response. People like to feel involved and love to help. Also, if I like what they are sharing on social media, I may ask them if they would interested in speaking to the St. Louis Entrepreneurs Meetup group. Not only are we getting quality content, the St. Louis Entrepreneurs Meetup gains more awareness, through the speakers promoting their speaking engagement to all of their fans/followers.
How much time do I spend on this? It depends if I have an event to promote, a question, a few extra moments of time, or just feel like chatting. I mostly use Twitter and LinkedIn for my business social media.
How popular are your meet-ups in terms of people who attend and the feedback you get? Do you hear success stories about people connecting in a meaningful way?
The St. Louis Entrepreneurs Meetup group in one of the top ten most successful business Meetups in the WORLD. We have over 1,300 members and grow every day. Our attendance varies between seasons, weather, topic of speaker, location, etc. A small meeting for the group would be 15 to 20 members and a large meeting would be 400 to 500 members. We partner with other local organizations for events, such as Alive Magazine and Junior Chamber International (JCI) Metro.
The feedback I personally receive from the group makes me proud of the entrepreneurs in St. Louis. They share ideas constantly with one another and go above and beyond in helping each other succeed. Feedback from our members is readily available on the St. Louis Entrepreneurs Meetup website.
For someone who is hesitant about plunging into to networking via social media, what would be your advice for first steps? Any do's and don'ts?
There is no one way to go about social media; it is first better to determine what you want out of social media. First have a plan and find your target audience. Social media will not work on its own; it will take time and nurturing.
In your opinion, to what degree are social networks a vital part to getting ahead or established in a career today?
It depends on the specific career and/or industry. Networking is not a new concept; however, the way you network is changing. I can say, being the chairman of the St. Louis Entrepreneurs Meetup group of over 1,300 members, having over 500 LinkedIn connections and being the 14th most influential Tweeter for #STL (according to wefollow.com) has opened many doors for me.
My best advice is to just experiment with social media. Try different avenues and see which ones work best for your business and brand. It is always important to keep an open mind and to be yourself, however be careful not to do/say anything that could possibly damage your brand.
For more insights and information on social media
* Part two will run Tuesday.