My New Best Friends
Please tell me I’m not the only one. Over the last year, I’ve apparently started operating in a parallel universe, where I look the same, live in the same house with the same people, but I’ve started to exhibit some really bizarre behaviors. Especially when it comes to my friends. Well, at least my new friends. My new best friends.
I think friendships, the really deep, worthwhile ones, develop over time. At least I used to think so, until social media conditioned me to judge a tweet, consider its backstory, the personality of the Tweeter, and calculate the emotional ROI on the time it took me to read the 140 characters (or less) – and judge it all in a millisecond. String a few of those milliseconds together, and I’m drawing conclusions about who my new best friends are. But it gets even weirder than that…
I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York in January. As I entered the lobby of the Sheraton and made my way over to the registration desk, I saw a familiar face. My good friend Dan Blank, the CEO of We Grow Media, was sitting at a table in the lobby working on his laptop.
The confused look on Dan’s face gave way to a flash of panic when I stuck out my hand. Only then did I remember that Dan had no idea who I was. I’d been following Dan on Twitter, subscribed to his blog, and watched a dozen video interviews he’d conducted. When it comes to author and publisher branding, Dan gets it / does it / coaches it. I’d witnessed his humor, his humility, and was pretty sure that he’d given me a glimpse of his soul. He was an old friend. Well, kind of. As I walked away from a relieved Dan Blank, I thought “Welcome to the world of social media.” In a thirty second conversation I left a prince of a guy muttering to himself and wondering if I was a crazed stalker or a merely a supportive fan. I felt a little creepy.
In the world of social media, there are a million voices screaming for your attention. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time or the patience to go to each person’s website, check out their LinkedIn profile and discover whatever else Google can tell me about them. Whether it is a blog post, tweet, or Facebook reference I’m looking at, I’ll run through four quick-and-dirty questions:
1. Do they really know their stuff?
2. Do they make me laugh?
3. Do they pass the beer / Merlot test? If it’s a male, is this someone I’d like to have a beer with? If it’s a woman, would I want to have a glass of Merlot with her? Sorry if the drink of choice is sexist, but that’s the way my test works.
4. How credible is the person / resource who referred me to them? This is the Robert Cialdini “social proof” concept. If I know you and like you and you recommend someone, I’m predisposed to like them (just so long as I don’t catch you recommending Justin Bieber or the Kardashians).
A yes to any one of these questions and I’ll take a second look, and maybe start to follow them, or subscribe to a blog. If it’s a yes to all four questions? Then I’m hanging on their every word – and treading dangerously close to stalker status.
The unfortunate reality is that all of these evaluations take place in split seconds. And the extension of credibility and social proof happens just as lightning-fast. This is where we kind of move from the bizarre to the truly absurd.
Gini Dietrich is the President of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based PR firm. She’s also a Vistage speaker and social media maven. She provides quality insights into PR and social media on her website, entitled “Spin Sucks.” I started following Gini because I thought she could help shorten my learning curve with social media and she had consistently received good ratings as a Vistage speaker. Then I saw the fateful post in January 2012 that put me over the edge. She made me giggle like a little kid. In a crowded Starbucks. And I didn’t care.
Gini has a weekly summary, entitled Gin and Topics and she includes stories of interest, funny videos, and other stuff. It’s an opportunity to laugh and learn for a couple of minutes. Her intro to the post that day was:
GUESS WHAT?!? It is snowing again! This makes me so happy!
Jack Bauer and I will be out cross-country skiing at lunchtime. Well, I’ll be skiing. He’ll be marking every tree along the lakefront as his.
As a fan of the show 24, I immediately pictured Kiefer Sutherland running through the snow and wizzing on every tree along the lakefront. Laugh. Out. Loud. If you didn’t catch it, Gini’s Jack Bauer is a dog. With his own Facebook page.
From that point on, she had me. She’s still a thought leader in the application of social media to the PR world, and remains a must-read / must-watch / must-follow, but now she’s much more. She’s one of my new best friends.
Consequently, when Gini talked about loving the work of a fellow blogger and inviting him to guest post and even present on a joint webcast, I had to check him out – in less than a minute. Enter Marcus Sheridan, otherwise known as Mufasa, the Sales Lion. He is very successful in content marketing, and is to the swimming pool industry what Gary Vaynerchuk is to the wine industry. Yeah, like Gary V (actually, @garyvee), Marcus’s expertise in sales and social media transcends his specific industry. Much of the message is simple human behavior – but reached and influenced in a new medium, and Marcus enjoys teaching others how to do it.
But Marcus’s appeal to me isn’t just as an expert in swimming pools or social media. He sells pools in Warsaw, Virginia. I’ve been to Warsaw, Virginia! (there aren’t tons of people who can say the same thing – trust me). I read a blog post of Marcus’s where he chronicled his schedule on an evening when his wife and oldest daughter went to a concert. Marcus watched their other three kids and it was a bit of an adventure. The post ended with his thoughts on what a balanced life looks like. He described five areas of life, which sounded remarkably like the five areas outlined by Tom Hill in a recent post of mine, “But He Looks So Ordinary.” Let’s see, he’s recommended by Gini Dietrich, he sounds like a young Tom Hill, he lifts people up… OK, I’m sold.
Three people I met through social media, whose message and personalities cut through the clutter to connect with me: Dan, Gini and Marcus. In a matter of seconds, they each made the cut. My new best friends.
I did have a beer with Dan Blank in New York, as part of the infamous Stecchino Bistro Writers’ Group (George, Viki, Porter, Kathy – that’s you). He’s a great guy and I’m an even bigger fan of his after meeting him in person.
Gini Dietrich is coming to speak to one of my Vistage groups in April and we’ll meet in person then. Maybe it’ll be a glass of Merlot, or just a cup of coffee and a bagel, but that still counts, as far as I’m concerned.
I’m not sure about our respective travel schedules so I’ll just throw it out there – Hey, Marcus, can I buy you a beer?