This year at SXSW Interactive, I heard a speaker say something that made me want to leap up, throw my hands in the air and yell, “Amen!”
He suggested that many new technologies, whether that’s smartphones, social media or the Internet itself, have been around long enough that we should no longer be infatuated with their gee-whiz factor and instead bring the focus around to how they help us live our lives better.
For example, does anyone get all breathless talking about having cable television, or do they instead talk about their favorite shows?
(Sadly, no, I don’t remember whose talk this was. The result of taking in too many presentations and having them all blur together.)
Since social media has “social” right in its name, let me give you just a few examples of how Twitter has improved my social life:
1) Shortly after we moved to Brooklyn, I set up a saved search in TweetDeck for mentions of my neighborhood, “Brooklyn Heights.” I was curious what people were saying about my new home. One day I noticed the Twitter handle “ZENyc” talking about finding peace and relaxation in New York.
I was intrigued because ZENyc, also a blog, seemed so aligned with my blog’s mission of living life intentionally and because this person seemed to be just a short walk away.
Amanda Hirsch, who has since retired her ZENyc blog and Twitter handle, has become one of my favorite people in Brooklyn. We went from tweeting at each other to meeting in person to hanging out on long, lovely double dates with our husbands.
2) Several years ago, we returned from our now-annual pilgrimage to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and I spent a little time following bands and venues I liked. They included Preservation Hall (@PresHall) and the New Orleans Bingo Show (
In New Orleans, there’s a lot of cross pollination in music, and one of the leaders of Bingo is also one of the managers at Preservation Hall: Ron Rona (
@RonnieNumbers). When Ron followed me back personally, I tweeted with geeky enthusiasm and we began a Twitter conversation about New York, music and marketing.
That’s turned into a real-life friendship with Ron and a magically surreal relationship with Preservation Hall, where I’ve gotten to know many of the talented people who are on the team behind the scenes and on stage. The Hall feels like a home away from home in NOLA.
This spring, I asked via Twitter if she might like to meet up while John and I were in NOLA. We had the kind of coffee date that felt like catching up with a long-lost friend. Because we’d been Twitter acquaintances for so long, maybe it was like meeting a pen pal.
During a Fourth of July visit to New Orleans, I enjoyed a hangout with Karen and her husband, Jeff, talking about the New Orleans music scene, the French Quarter real estate market, summer weather and so many other things that the time flew by entirely too quickly.
4) My newest from-Twitter-to-real-life friend is Lauree Ostrofsky (
@SimplyLeap). A few weeks back, I saw she was tweeting back and forth with my pal Lara Zielin (@larazielin), then shortly thereafter she was tweeting with Amy Throndsen (@amyserves), who had been part of Blogversation in 2012. I figured if Lauree knew both these ladies, there was a good chance I’d like her.
Turned out Lauree had recently left her home in D.C. and was housesitting in NYC while she prepared for her next big adventure, so we met for coffee — and much like meeting Karen, time flew by and I knew I’d met a kindred spirit.
A few morals to all of these stories:
- Technology led me to people I like and have much in common with, but who I might never have met without Twitter
- It’s worth finding the needle in the haystack. Twitter has millions of users and probably the vast majority are creating content I don’t care about.
- Tools help. I use saved searches and Twitter directories to find people tweeting about topics of interest to me, and I sometimes take a recommendation from Twitter’s who to follow list.
- Human curation helps, too. I watch to see who my friends and colleagues retweet or reply to, and I seek out the Twitter accounts of people and businesses I like.
- Finding each other isn’t enough. Just like meeting a smart, interesting person at a party, you get to know each other by engaging in a conversation. In each of these stories, eventually trading 140 characters wasn’t enough and we started actually talking. Start by replying to someone, have an electronic conversation, see what happens.
How has social media made my life better? By giving me a new way to find people in my community and elsewhere who share my interests and letting me develop real, true friendships in a new way.
Colleen Newvine Tebeau is a former reporter and editor who then earned her MBA at University of Michigan with emphases in marketing and corporate strategy. She is a marketing consultant who helps small and midsized organizations with strategy and tactics, including social media and communications.