A Letter to My New To Social Media Self

First I want to say, you’ll be glad you did. Hang in there, social media newbie.

I know that sometimes using social media will push you out of your comfort zone. In fact, you’re first experience with being pushed out of your social media comfort zone will come when you’re asked to sign up for Facebook to collaborate with other Young Professionals Kiwanis Club of Scottsdale. You’ll mumble to yourself “Pshah. Facebook. Isn’t that for COLLEGE kids?! MySpace is where grown ups hang out.”

You’ll soon learn you aren’t very good at predicting the future.
You’ll also learn that this is only be the first of many times that you’re pushed out of your comfort zone by Facebook.

Only a year later when you land on a small isolated island in the middle of the Pacific will you really begin to see the value of social media. LinkedIn will provide you with an opportunity to have lunch with a girl named Christa (@supercw), who you connect with well in advance of your arrival. At the time, you won’t realize that Christa is one of Hawaii’s social media earliest adopters. You don’t end up collaborating with Christa, but she introduces you to someone you do end up collaborating with and who eventually becomes a very good friend. LinkedIn will remain a part of your life and you’ll be glad you invested in the space. At the same time, you’ll be very grateful to Facebook for providing you with a sense of connection to your family and friends, especially your sister whose second child is born the day before you move. Pictures will become a welcomed daily distraction. It won’t be the last time.

You’ll soon learn that social media isn’t about the past or the future. It’s about the present.

You’ll experiment with blogging, first with a food blog, which while small, will create many lasting friendships for you. WordPress seems miraculous to you. It’s a beautiful love affair.  Importantly, that blog will ignite something in you, make you dream about possibilities. See the world as both bigger and smaller. You will begin blogging on your work blog around that time too. But that blog flounders. You struggle to find your voice. But have faith, the process is where the juice is, and you’ll help lot’s of others through their own blogging conundrums because you have (notice the present tense), have your own. You’ll continue to read books about blogging, watch other bloggers and read other blogs. You’ll feel like your brain is filled up. But it won’t be.

Blogging makes you join Twitter for the first time.

By the time you join Twitter in 2009, you’ll be long past the early adopter phase, once again proving that you can’t see into the future. But you’ll really appreciate Twitter because you can follow people in Hawaii. It will give you insight into the culture, the people and the places to go. Really, Twitter will be how you learn to “get” Hawaii. You’ll spend hours lurking. You’ll enjoy being an observer. You’re first few haphazard tweets will be just as lame as you feared they were: “Is blogging…social media and sponsorships make good partners for events of all sizes.”  But you’ll soon realize, no one saw them anyway.  You tweet sporadically those first few months. Later that year, you’ll meet a kindered spirit, whose bragging rights include sending the first Tweet from Hawaii and securing the Twitter handle @rob. You’ll begin to wonder if you should change your Twitter handle, so you secure the new handle with your full name, just in case. You think you’re being smart by doing this, but it will come back to haunt you when you discover you could have just renamed your Twitter account rather than opening a new one, and now you actually DO have followers. In the meantime, you begin to share with the whole world more confidently. You continue to watch people in Hawaii, but you start feeling connected on Twitter with people all over the world. You particularly like that just as you’re headed to bed, Australia is just coming online.

Later in 2009, you’ll finally go to your first Social Media Club of Hawaii (SMCHI) meeting at the urging of @rob. You’ll have watched a couple of the events via livestream, but you’ll need a nudge to get out of your comfort zone to attend. Your comfort zone will never again be the same. After that first meeting, your social media learning will become super-charged. You’ll finally be with colleagues who are as fascinated by social media as you are. You’ll find a group of people who are playing in the wild west of social media and finding their own way too.

Along the way, you’ll have two Facebook accounts (even though its against Facebook’s TOS), an abandoned MySpace account, though neither of your two “friends” on that account miss you because we’re all on Facebook now. You’ll eventually realize that there isn’t room in your life for two Facebook accounts and learn to “just let it all hang out together.” The first time you’re Mom comments about how proud she is of you on a professional speaking engagement, you’ll cringe. Then you’ll remember how lucky you are that you’re Mom even cares enough to comment on Facebook. At that moment, you’ll bask at the confluence of professional and personal together and realize there’s no clear line anymore. You’ll have an Instagram account, a Pinterest account, and many others. Some social media accounts become part of your life. Some don’t.

You’ll struggle with what to do with strangers who connect with you on LinkedIn. You’ll finally create your own set of social media rules. You try to follow everyone back on Twitter, and everyone can follow you. You’ll have a love affair with Twitter. And you’ll be especially grateful for it when you’re evacuated out of your home for tsunami alerts (3 evacuations in 6 years) and it’s your only lifeline to information. Facebook is primarily for people you know or for those with whom you have a connection in common. And LinkedIn is your most private account. You’ll connect with lots of people there, but you’ll be more selective. Then Google+ will come…and you’ll love it too. You might even love it more than Twitter, but you’re not good at predicting the future, so you just go with the flow.

SMCHI and social media in general will push you. And push. And push you out of your comfort zone and you’ll never get used to it; but you’ll begin to relish it.  But what you will come to realize is that the comfort zone is completely over-rated.

You’ll begin to see how you can “give a nudge” to help others out of their comfort zones. Social media will begin to take you on a journey much larger than tech.  But because you aren’t very good at predicting the future, you won’t really be sure where it will end up. The only thing that you’ll know for certain is that social media transformed you.