Social Media and Business Networking in Action
Ever wondered about the real-life value of your social media activity? Ever felt like you were wasting time at the business networking events you attend? Let me share with you something that recently brought the sometimes-fuzzy ROI of social media and business networking into the realm of the tangible for me.
A couple of weeks ago my kids were on spring break. I had a couple of bookings that couldn’t be shifted and had to stay home, but the rest of the family was ready to get out of town for a while. So that Friday afternoon, my wife and kids piled into our well-used, well-loved, 13-year-old mini-van and headed to her parents’ home to visit for a few days.
About two hours after they left, I got a frantic phone call. “Dad, something is wrong with the van. Engine warning lights are on, and we’re barely moving along the interstate in a small town outside Birmingham, Alabama. It’s called Leeds. There’s an exit coming up, I think. What should we do?”
Naturally, I did what anyone would do: I went to Facebook and Twitter for help.
The Network Responds
Within minutes, I had multiple responses from my network popping up on my phone and my computer. High school friends who lived in the area. Clients. Vendors. People I have met networking out and about in Atlanta, Birmingham, and around the Southeast. Before I could even finish Googling up repair shops in the area to see who might still be open, I was getting responses from people within a few minutes’ drive of my stranded family. Places to check. Places to stay overnight if needed. Offers of rides to get to hotels. Lots of help.
In particular, one person – Joel Atkins of A+ Printing Services – was of the most direct assistance. He is a relatively recent arrival in metro-Atlanta, and came to the area from… Leeds, Alabama. He put his network there to work for me, and in less than 30 minutes, I had a trusted referral on his way to help my family. (For the record, it was Greg Messer of Express Oil Change in Leeds – a great guy!)
Think about this for a second. After business hours, on a Friday, during rush hour, a hundred miles away, a person of goodwill whom I had never met in person got in his truck and drove to meet with my family in a public location and check on their condition. He diagnosed the problem, he made sure they were able to hobble into a nearby hotel to get a room, and he offered to meet them there the next morning to help them get the van to his shop. He fixed the problem on that Saturday morning and got them on their way, just about 18 hours behind schedule.
The People Behind the Profiles
This situation worked out well, but only because each individual along the way recognized that the value of networking – online or in person – is not to connect to profiles and collect business cards, but to connect with the human beings behind those cards and profiles.
This gentleman was willing to help because someone he trusted asked him to do it. That person was asked by another person. That person was asked by another person. And that person was asked by me. All of those connections were based on relationships that have been built and sustained through in-person and online networking.
Many of us go to events. Many of us spend a lot of time online. Many of us have a lot of connections and contacts. But if you aren’t building relationships with people you’d trust to help your family, I think you might be doing it wrong. You’ll have better results for your business and your life if you change your goals while you’re out or online networking.
The whole frustrating situation turned out to be a win for my wife, too. She safely got where she was going with unexpectedly minimal inconvenience, and she also gained an inarguable reason for me to finally go shopping for a new van!
Tell me about how YOU are building relationships in your personal networking, either in person or online. Do you have a great example of a time when your contacts’ contacts’ contacts saved your skin? Let’s hear it!