While I've had a personal blog for years and was surprised to find that I've been on LinkedIn since 2004, I've only more recently been cultivating a digital network. I started this blog about a year ago and have been on Twitter since late 2007. So let's say I've been working on a digital network of people that know me and my work primarily through the web for about a year.
My motivation for starting a blog was varied but as an analyst I believed the only way to generate interest in a new research program was to publish my perspective freely. I've also always like blogs for their informal nature and it allowed me to play with research ideas that were only partially formed. As part of that, the input and feedback I got - or didn't get - helped me figure out what direction to pursue. So the blog was part research tool, part intellectual journal, part marketing.
Twitter on the other hand, was a great way to keep in touch with the myriad of people I met as an analyst. So often with business contacts you exchange each others' cards and then never speak to each other again because there is no specific reason. Twitter allowed me to keep ambient tabs on people and actually reengage in a casual way which was incredible. Then I found I was actually meeting people through the conversations I was having and the simple feature of following instead of friending became a huge differentiator. I have more than a handful of people that I met on Twitter that I now consider friends and meet with regularly offline, and many more that I feel like I know from our Twitter conversations although I wouldn't be able to point them out in a crowded room.
So I met some great people, I wrote some things - some of which were interesting - some a little less. And, for the most part, I haven't done much to aggressively increase my followers but somehow, over the year I have found a band of people who find my blogs and tweets interesting enough to keep up. I do chat regularly via Twitter and find having an extended network of people who understand the space I operate in very energizing. And that all makes me happy.
When I moved on to a executive job, I became so swamped that my blogging and Twittering became more erratic and its value changed. I used my blog and Twitter to expand my horizons and make me think outside of my own daily work, which while important was not as dynamic as my days were as an analyst. My merry band increased but more incrementally.
Yesterday, as many of you know, I was given an unexpected vacation. And, cut off from my daily work network, I of course turned to my band of online friends. I was also a little curious about what might happen...I am not typically the type to ask for help so, I'm often surprised when it appears...so I was curious. And what happened, was an amazing outpouring from my network . Some expressions of empathy, some humorous or entertaining tidbits, but more than I was expecting, people who wanted to help or had leads. I spent the day today talking and emailing with people and finding all sort of opportunities. I am in awe - and I feel so fortunate and blessed. So, if you have a boss or a colleague who is a cynic about social media, tell them my story...and if they do not value that (or heaven forbid they don't see the ROI), they will reap what they sow and never understand why social media is so powerful.
Lastly, thank you. Thank you. While I will be OK regardless, you made the cushion that I landed on infinitely softer.