Sunday, February 22, 2009

The best investment you'll ever make

Over the last six months, I've been asked many times by colleagues, friends and family why I spend so much time on Twitter and other online channels. 

My one word response: Relationships.

Like nothing we've ever seen before, tools like Twitter allow you to connect, share and collaborate with fabulously smart, creative and interesting folks across the world. People like Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Beth Harte and Jason Falls, just to name a few (OK, so I don't connect with many people from Singapore....yet). 

These tools also allow you to build and foster relationships that often lead to real-life relationships. You hear examples all the time. Folks that have connected for months--even years--online, meet up in person and make the relationship that much stronger. It's like online dating, in a way. Twitter, and tools like it, provide you with the introduction and you build and nurture the relationship from there. I have gotten to know so many great people online this past year in the PR industry--folks like David Mullen, Rachel Kay, Danny Brown, Allan Schoenberg, Matt Batt, Scott Hepburn, Sonny Gill. I could go on and on. And I hope to meet many of these folks at events like SOBcon09 and BlogPotomac in the year to come. I also hope to meet up with others on a more personal plane in 2009--golf trips, informal meet ups, etc.

Why am I investing all this time and effort into this relationship building?

Simple. I see it as the best professional investment I can make. The relationships I build help me:

* Learn new skill sets. We're all learning about the ins and outs of these social media tools together, right? What better way to learn best practices and new approaches than from your colleagues and friends online? Seems like I learn a new way to use Twitter from my friends every day. I've also discovered new approaches to my blog by following, reading and commenting on some of the best blogs out there in the PR/social media space.

* Meet new people through my network's network. One of the first people I met through Twitter was David Mullen (lucky for me, I know). But through David, I've gotten to know so many other folks, like Lauren Fernandez and Jen Wilbur, who I know consider good friends and smart colleagues to turn to for advice and ideas. I've also met new PR folks locally through my online network--people like Ryan Mathre, Dan Wolter and Ryan Maus at the University of Minnesota. Folks like Graeme Thickins, Brad Bellaver and Albert Maruggi through Social Media Breakfast. And I've fostered existing relationships with PR colleagues like Eva Keiser, Jason Sprenger, LeeAnn Rasachak and many, many others. 

* Uncover new opportunities. Through Twitter and the relationships I've built online, I've been offered speaking opportunities (about social media/PR) and recently had a shot at moderating the famed Journchat conversation on Monday nights (congrats to @standupkid, by the way). Offline, my relationships have led to at least two job opportunities, freelance consulting engagements and a slew of life-long friends.
* Hone existing skills. During the day I spend my time consulting with clients, thinking and writing. That's pretty much it. So, you would think I'd be pretty sick-and-tired of writing by the time I got home at night, right? On the contrary, I've found my online engagement to be a great way to hone my writing skills differently than the way I practice in my "day job." And, since I don't work as much in media relations in my current job, I relish the chance to develop my pitching skills through Twitter. After all, every time I attempt to promote a blog post or RT someone else' tweet, isn't that what I'm doing? And, in 140 characters no less.
* Build life-long friendships. You can't put a price tag on this one. Folks like David Mullen, Allan Schoenberg, Lauren Fernandez, Jen Wilbur, Rachel Kay, Matt Batt, Candee Wolf, Joel Swanson (I can't possibly name everyone) are people I see myself staying in touch with for a very long time. They're people I connect with on a professional AND personal level. And I value their friendship and opinions every single day.

* Feel better about life. Every day I go online and connect with my colleagues and friends in San Diego, Boston, North Carolina, Minnesota, heck even Romania (yes I follow someone from Romania)--I feel better about myself. I feel better about humanity. I feel better about life. 

That's the "ROI" of relationships to me. What about you? Why do you spend so much time building your relationships? What do you hope to get in return?


Jakeybro said...

Well said, Arik.

I've recently had this unexplainable feeling of "lift" with my level of connectivity and you've hit it with this post.

I'm in a very small organization which has traditional communications roots, and sometimes can feel isolated in my beliefs about the direction of the world of marketing. Finding validation, inspiration and motivation in 140 characters is energizing. It also helps me to make reasoned arguments with my colleagues.

What I've actually discovered is something I've known all along. My workmates are extremely talented, enlightened people and I'm just irritating enough to show them a new perspective.


Jake Yarbrough

Lauren Vargas said...

The value from these relationships are priceless. This is why I am constantly amazed at how slow the adoption curve is in PR. Actually, this observation may be because I am impatient! Seriously though, virtual doors are opened each day.

RockstarJen said...

What a surprise to see my mug! If you're in PR and not meeting new people and learning other perspectives regularly, good luck growing. Whether it's in person or online, this gig is all about relationships. I've always been that way, even before PR. Must be why I'm here. :)


Anonymous said...

At my HS graduation, the only thing I remember our speaker talking about was to "live your life according to YOGO WYPI." You only get out what you put in-- and you put in a LOT, Arik! I think you create strong relationships because you're willing to engage, connect, and help out - you take a genuine interest in the people you follow, whether they're big time or small fry, and it is so encouraging.

I've learned so much from my Twitter network and it's such a complete 180 from my day job, where no one has a clue about PR and social media. I don't have a lot of close friends at my workplace, so it's so great to have Twitter friends to get through the day with, trade ideas, and share a laugh!

In my industry it would be so easy to fall behind and not stay up-to-speed with what's new and exciting in PR and communications. My Twitter relationships are what keep me learning, growing, and interested.


storyassistant said...

I'm honored to be on your blog...and you didn't even tell me:)?! Seriously, I echo your points made in this post about Twitter. The reality of how you get to each of these points (and relationships) is through giving. Ever since I met you on Twitter, you have given more than you received. For that Mr. Hanson, you will constantly be rewarded on Twitter...and in life!

Thanks for starting this conversation & for the name drop:)

Arik C. Hanson, APR said...

Jake--You summed up something that's been stirring inside of me for the last several months--that "lift." The relationships I've built IRL and on Twitter are the glue that hold my life together. The value of connecting with the Jen Wilburs, David Mullens and Rachel Kays of the world cannot be labeled with a price tag. Most days I feel like a smarter person for having known these folks.

Jen--You've hit the nail on the head. If we're not learning and growinig, we're standing still. And in the PR world, that means you're a sitting duck.

Amy--Your sentiments really resonate with me. I have had similar feelings recently and use my online engagement as an outlet for the creativity and ideas I don't necessarily get the opportunity to express in my day job. But I agree with you--a great way to counteract that is to engage in these tools, learn on our own and grow.