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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