Ahhh...the question is always the same: Why are you on Twitter? And while I did start out on Twitter purely for social pleasure, I've learned a lot about how to use it for social interaction and networking. Here is how it has helped me lately:
I asked some local businesses to raise their hand on Twitter so we could get to know each other. I was pleased to get a few responses and one person was Michele from Cookie Central. She and I made a date on a random Friday afternoon for some cookies and conversation at her home where she bakes and delivers her own gift baskets! She also bakes with a mission - a true mission to end childhood hunger. I was inspired - and in awe - of her baking talents and commitment. And we did some networking while we chatted. Simple and social and thanks to Twitter.
Also this month, I was part of a great event hosted by Interise's StreetWise MBA program in Lowell. Once a session, they invite "experts" to their speed networking night and I was one of the fortunate attendees. Every 10 minutes I had a fresh, new face in front of me reciting their elevator pitch and asking me what I do at Carlton PR and Marketing. This interaction was really just a conversation between two people to learn more about each others businesses.
It was a joy. Mainly because I'm a social person and learning about other people fascinates me. But what I really loved is that these 15 companies are all trying to figure out how to better their business. They aren't looking for VC money, or angel investors. In fact most of them have been in business for years as brick and mortars. They were just looking for new ideas. New approaches. New ways of looking at their existing business. And someone to listen and offer some simple advice.
For 120 minutes (and a couple of drinks after with them) I realized that the real importance of Social Media is the Social part. I was able to provide insight to them about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare. Many had heard of these social tools but knew little about how to apply them to their businesses.
I'm also learning that you are either social, or you aren't. And if you are not, that's not a big deal - but you should find someone that can help your business be social. If you'd rather sit in the back office and make sure the bills are paid and the orders are filled, that's fine. But in today's increasingly changing economy, creativity and socializing are quickly becoming the norm. If you see people sitting in your establishment typing away on their smartphones, you need to be aware they could be typing away about your product or service. I really enjoyed introducing two Pub owners to their Foursquare Mayor (virtually of course) and showed them the 3 positive tips they had on there as well.
Being involved with mainly technology companies, and innovation events, I have been taking for granted that the local restaurant, gift shop, insurance agent, home painting company, and printing store may need a little more social education to keep their dreams alive. Growing locally is increasingly critical these days. Let the social tools help with the introductions, but then really apply the "social" in "social media" and get out to meet your neighbors!! I guess that's the reason I'm on those social things....