The Real Promise (and Power) of Social Media

by Ken Mueller on August 2, 2012 · 16 comments


There is so much that we take for granted in our lives, and it usually happens when something moves from being “new, shiny, and special” to being just another ubiquitous part of our lives. That’s what has happened with social media, and it’s a wonderful thing.

As I write this, my oldest son is nearly 5,000 miles away in the Czech Republic for a 5-month internship, while my other son just returned from a two-week visit there. This was an opportunity that was never really available to me when I was in high school or college.

It wasn’t that long ago that communication between us would have been relegated to letters, and perhaps an incredibly expensive and difficult to make phone call if there was an emergency. Then email came along. And now, we are connected to them nearly every moment. While my older son has been over there, we have had frequent Skype calls, some lasting hours, just to talk about any little thing, including sports, movies, or whatever else is on our mind. The same things we would have chatted about in person. There are near daily Facebook chats as well, and I have to say it’s pretty incredible. We can even share videos and photos from both sides of the ocean.

My daughter recently graduated from college, and nearly every day she can be found online chatting, Skyping, Google Hangouting (??), and the like with one or more friends. For me, once I graduated from college, most of those relationships were dependent upon letters or phone calls, and therefore were diminished by time and distance.

Our family is connected in ways I never could have imagined just ten years ago. And very recently we reconnected with some old friends at a wedding whom we’ve maybe seen once in the past 22 years. But because of our social media connections, it felt so natural to be spending time with them and their kids. As we left the wedding, one of their college aged daughters thanked us for sitting with them because we had such a good time. And this is a young woman we’d met only once before, many years ago.

This is why I use social media. The ability to connect and reconnect, and yes, build meaningful relationships, even with people we’ve never met before. I was reminded of this several times recently, first in a post from Margie Clayman in which she talked about some of the important online connections in her life.

But I was also reminded about the power of connection in a client meeting. The chef/owner of a restaurant told me that every day in their pre-shift meeting they go over the names of regulars, so that everyone on the staff can identify them. They want their staff to connect with the people who dine there in a way that is deeper than just that of two parties involved in a transaction, and that’s the philosophy we are using as we build the restaurant’s social presence.

And then just this week several of my online friends were let go from their jobs as the result of a “reorganizing”. I met them through that company, and while I’ve never met them in person, I hurt for them. But unlike the “old days” I can maintain contact with them very easily and continue to develop those friendships.

Connecting with others is easier than it’s ever been, and we have the ability to control the level of connection. This is why I love social media and technology.

I believe that social media has the capability of making us better people. I believe that social media has the capability of making us better at business. And I believe that social media has the capability of making this world a better place.

As someone who works with businesses on their social presence online, I need to be reminded of the real power of social media from time to time. I can be so consumed by promoting my own business, and helping others promote their businesses, that I forget the real promise of social media:

Deeper, meaningful connections

While this can happen on the personal level, it can also happen on a professional level, and the businesses that understand this are the ones that will benefit the most.

It’s a mindset, not a program or strategy. Once you have the mindset, all of the rest of it will flow from that as you build those relationships and connections. It’s for this reason that I think those who are using social media personally before jumping into it from a business perspective will have an edge over those who view it solely as a tool for business and marketing.

They get it.

Do you?




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