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Aug 29 2013

CONSTRUCT: Is social media hurting or helping our ability to connect?

Category: General InfoLori @ 12:12 am Comments (7)

Construct Per Specs

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A few years ago I attended a presentation given by a sports broadcaster and football analyst in his 70’s.  As he discussed how important relationships are with our sales force of about 500 people, he said that social media was a threat to relationship-building, and that we should be seeing our customers face-to-face, or at least picking up the phone regularly.

At that time I had recently become involved in social media, and was using my blog to educate thousands of people, and my LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts to draw new readers to my content and remind existing contacts that they could find answers to their questions there.  Each time one of my connections (I don’t like the term “followers”) saw me on their news feed, it was similar to what advertisers call an “impression”, which our marketing department places a lot of value on.  Even if a connection didn’t click the link and read my blog post, they were reminded of my existence…I was getting a tiny bit of their highly-coveted “mind-share”.  Although this wasn’t my main purpose when I began, it was a beneficial side effect that only required a little extra effort.

So I was not in agreement with the presenter, and I asked a follow-up question to make sure I had heard him correctly. He insisted that social media is going to be the death of personal relationships, which he had previously stated are our most valuable business asset.  I thought long and hard about what he said.  Are we hiding behind a shield of technology and avoiding face-time (the real face-time, not the Apple version)?  Or does social media and the availability of various communication technologies mean that we can connect with people we would otherwise never meet, and stay connected over the years and across the miles?

My birthday was a few weeks ago, and according to Facebook, 78 of my “friends” wished me happy birthday.  About 20 sent me an email to mark the occasion.  A dozen more sent me birthday wishes via LinkedIn, including my mother.  OK – that one was a little weird, but since I was out of the country and unavailable by phone, I’ll let it go.  So maybe some of them were friends I haven’t seen since high school or business contacts I’ve only met virtually…would it be better to have no relationship at all than a virtual one (Mom excluded)?

Social MediaIn my opinion, there are more opportunities to create and maintain relationships than ever before.  I “know” hundreds of people I have never met in person, and they know me.  They can find me when they need to, and I’m pretty sure they’re not using a Rolodex.  I recently called a state building code department, and as I was providing some background on the question I was about to ask, the government employee on the other end of the phone line asked, “Are you LGreene from the Building Code Forum?  I’m Architect1281!”  I’m guessing he may have been more patient with me and willing to spend more time than he would have been if we hadn’t established that connection.

I have connected with people all over the country and even in other countries.  Two of my virtual friends from Israel recently visited the U.S., and I flew to Chicago to have dinner with them.  It was like we were old pals.  Last year at CONSTRUCT, many of the Twitter enthusiasts got together in the CSI booth for a Tweet-Up.  It was great to see each other in person, but without social media we may not have had a chance to get to know each other.  Because time constraints and distance make it impossible for me to see everyone face-to-face on a regular basis, I think social media is extremely valuable for connecting with people and maintaining those connections.  And when I have a chance to see someone in the real world instead of the virtual one, I embrace it whole-heartedly!

And the ESPN personality who tried to talk me out of using social media?  He now has more than 4,000 followers on Twitter, a Facebook page with more than 6,000 “likes”, and although he doesn’t seem to have a blog of his own yet, he is the subject of many blog posts – positive publicity that has to be good for a public figure like him.

I’m looking forward to connecting, in person, with many of you at this year’s CONSTRUCT show in Nashville!  Until then, I’ll “see” you online!

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7 Responses to “CONSTRUCT: Is social media hurting or helping our ability to connect?”

  1. Cody Parrott says:

    Thinking about social media reminds me of my move to coastal California 8 years ago. I used to live in rural Nevada and still managed to go to the beach a few times a year. I now live about a 20 minute’s drive from the beach. Do I go any more often? No, I actually go much less!

    Living close to the beach is great, but because it’s always available in less than 20 minutes I almost never go out of my way to visit it. Haha I actually probably visit rural Nevada more than I do the beach.

    Social media isn’t an inherently bad thing. It just makes it easy to take significant social interactions and relationships for granted. Why go out of your way to see someone if you already know that they just “had the BEST philly cheese steak sandwich EVER”? Social media is slowly sucking all of the magic and wonder out of life.

    That being said, I still enjoy Instagram 🙂

    • Lori says:

      I hear you. I still go out of my way to see people, but that might just be so that I can escape from my family. 🙂

  2. Safecrackin Sammy says:

    I still believe in the old school way of business of getting out and actually seeing people. Building those long term face to face relationships is the key to success…

    Of course I say that while being surrounded by three computer monitors and a cell phone that can compute lunar orbit trajectory while taking pics of something or other.

  3. bruce young says:

    Lori –
    a couple of thoughts from the world or retirement!!!
    We lost our cat of 14+ years 10 days ago. it was sudden and not expected. Suzy posted on Facebook of our loss. Suzy uses FB all the time and posts pictures of our 5 grandchildren often and may get 4 or 5 replies – likes and comments. After the post of our cat Wilbur, she got over 40 condolences, not likes, from people she wasn’t really sure who they were.
    When I was a rep and was traveling, I called on my architects regularly. Once I started with IR as spec writer working from home and the closest architect was maybe 3 hour drive, I seldom was in their office. I would often reply to their request for a meeting by reminding them that it was a 6 hour drive and IF they really needed me, I would be there for as long as they needed. My point is that they knew me very well and could trust that I could give them what they needed, either place. I could never develop that type of relationship with e mail/social media.

    I believe that “social media” is good, but old “dogs” don’t learn new tricks easily.

    By the way, Suzy and I were in NY for the USTA Open yesterday and sitting about six rows in front of us was Mark Moran. Small world.

    Love your posts and pictures.


    • Lori says:

      Thanks Bruce! So great to hear from you, and so crazy that you saw Mark. I saw him a few months back at the AIA show. Sorry about your cat. 🙁

      I hope you had a great summer!

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