You know all those spam tweets about winning an ipad? Well, I really did win one. Seriously. I created my Twitter profile in 2009 because I kept hearing how great it was. It took me a few months to understand its power and value. However, in the past three years, I have had a wealth of experiences come my way because of the relationships I have built on Twitter.
I have a long list of opportunities that have arisen from my involvement in social media. I was quoted in the New York Times as well as Crain’s Chicago Business, and the journalists who wrote those articles found me, in some way, through my connections on social media. I have traveled to conferences and stayed at homes of people I knew through social media. I have presented at too many conferences to remember them all because of my social media connections. I have certainly found clients and I have worked on some truly extraordinary initiatives that came my way through my Twitter and LinkedIn connections. But the highlight of my experiences in social media was something that happened over one year ago and still makes me grin from ear to ear.
On December 25th, 2010, I turned 50. I had plans with some friends to make and deliver bag lunches to homeless people who would be out in the city on a cold winter Christmas afternoon. It seemed like a way to celebrate a milestone birthday at a time when I felt profound gratitude for my life circumstances. We gathered to put the lunches together. I thought we were getting ready to go deliver the food, but instead I was handed a gift bag. I truly did not expect a present and couldn’t imagine what my friends would have bought me. I took the gift out of the bag and ripped off the wrapping paper. To this day, I still haven’t really recovered from the overwhelming flood of emotions as I saw that ipad. About 25 people who I had met on Twitter had created a secret Facebook group and conspired to buy me this extraordinary gift. They said they appreciated all that I had done for them and for the Chicago community and wanted to show their appreciation. At that time, I didn’t have a smartphone and was lugging my laptop everywhere. They decided an ipad would allow me to travel much lighter as I walked to my many meetings and events each day. I was so moved by their generosity and giving spirit.
I have created an annual conference for nonprofit organizations on technology and utilized my Twitter network to find the majority of the speakers. I have helped organize nationwide fundraisers for incredible organizations utilizing social media. I have been able to drive fairly significant traffic to my blog through my social media connections. And I continue to find wonderful events to attend through my online network. But I can’t imagine that anything will ever surpass what I experienced when I received that ipad. Because, as great as social media is, it is ultimately just a tool that facilitates introductions to and conversations with people. The real impact begins by nurturing those relationships beyond just 140 character tweets. That’s when there is real power and value that can be attributed to social media.