Skype, Starbucks & Skin Grafts: 11 Strategies to Find Friends in Fantasyland

I always wanted Friends.

Every Thursday night in my Junior year of college, a group of us girls would run back from night class to gather in Mindy’s dorm room, drink illicit margaritas, and revel in the details of a romanticized version of New York City life.

The scenario portrayed on the 1990s TV show “Friends” seemed perfect.

A group of singletons living in the big city. Alone, but together. Always someone to share the events of the day, have a drink with, or support you when your non-secret lifelong crush didn’t love you back or when you were giving birth to your brother’s triplets conceived by artificially insemination.

But that never really happened when I got out into the real world.

Yes, obviously I had people I hung out with in law school, work friends from the law firm, and acquaintances here and there from my daughter’s playgroup or the local business networking event.

But I never really found my people.

People where I didn’t have to play a part. Where I was not restricted to doing just what I “should” do. Where I didn’t have to hold back a part of my insanity so I fit into the norm of the group. Where I could share not just the positive stuff, but also all of the crap of my life.

So, I figured that the magical support structure I had envisioned was just that. Fiction. A fantasy.

Fast foreward to one week ago from today.

I was home alone, chatting on Twitter & Skype, working on some tasks for The Live Your Truth Project 2 and planning a weekend of untold productivity & video creation.

Then the phone rang.

It was my ex-husband. Our 4 year old daughter had suffered second degree burns on her leg from scalding hot water at a KFC and was being transported via ambulance to the Regional Burn Unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

So before I ran off in a frenzy to meet them at the ER, I invoked my support structure.

No, I didn’t run over to a neighbor or call a family member.

I updated my Twitter account.

“going to the ER: ex called to say that my daughter has 2nd degree burns from hot water spilling on her. will update.” 12/4/09 7:55 PM

Over the last 7 days I live tweeted my entire experience as the mother of 4 year old who has 2nd degree burns over 10% of her body.

Almost fainting as they cleaned her wound. Her refusal of pain medication, flabbergasting the hospital staff. My sleeping on the worst bed that had ever been invented. Her grilling the surgical resident on the risks of waking up during the procedure. Our nightmare of her needing surgery to attach fake skin to her wound, and relief when we found out three days later that the surgery worked. And our joy a few hours ago when she took her first post-burn steps down the hospital hallways.

The amazing thing is that I didn’t have to do this alone.

As soon as I sent that first tweet, dozens, hundreds of @ replies, DMs, and text messages immediately came in offering prayers, energy work, and positive thoughts … and asking how they could help.

And these were not empty offers.

I had Allison Nazarian (@allisonnazarian) on permanent text message alert, available for constant updates & to vent every untwitterable compliant, doubt, internal struggle, and self-punishing thought.

Sarah Robinson (@sarahrobinson) recruited a San Jose local Karmen Reed (@kickofftopic) to deliver my much missed Starbucks mocha to the hospital. Total surprise. And, they got the order right.

Balloons delivered to the hospital from Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) & Alison Kramer (@nummiesbras), providing decoration, floating punching bags, and a discussion starter for my 4 year old to entertain her guests (aka hospital staff).

Ori Bengal (@couchsurfingori) texting with original offensive-to-normal-people jokes about burn units to distract me that first long night.

And that’s just the beginning.

Hundreds (by now, thousands) of well-wishes & thoughts & offers for help via Twitter @ reply and DM, Facebook comments & wall posts, multi-day Skype conversations, emails, blog comments, text messages, flowers, gifts, offers to run errands or pull strings. From clients, friends, family, readers, followers. People I’ve known for decades and people with whom I have never directly communicated before this week.

And almost all of these people I either met for the first time this year on Twitter or they were casual business colleagues who became real friends via social networking.

Yes, I’ve got new clients using social media. Yes, I’ve got speaking gigs and joint venture opportunities from blog and Facebook posts. Yes, Twitter has been my ultimate business  mastermind.

But it is the deep personal/business relationships I’ve developed using Twitter, Facebook and blogging that are profound.

It’s been where I found my people.

It’s been where I brought my Friends fantasy into reality.

And it did not happen by accident. It did not happen overnight. It did not happen using some magical strategy taught by the leading social media gurus.

It’s actually just simple common sense.

But while we were all born with common sense, somehow it was socialized out of us along the way.

So here are 11 reminders as you navigate the mysteries of the social media revolution to get you back into living your truth. So you can find your people.

1. Give a sh*t about people.  If there was nothing else that you take away from this post, this is it: care. Really care about people. Who they are. What they want. Their dreams. Their problems. Their greatest fears. What makes them excited. What rocks their world. If you really, really give a sh*t about people, you will never go wrong. In social media. And in life.

2. Treat your “friends” as if they were your friends. When we crossed the line from having prospects & leads to having friends & followers, some marketers continued to market in their slimy way and others stopped marketing entirely. Obviously, neither extreme is effective.

Here’s the social media promotion test: if your “in real life” friend had a problem that you knew you could solve, would you tell them about how you could help them, or keep silent? Of course you would tell them.

If that’s the energy your self-promotion comes from, then tweet/post/email it. You’re not shamefully (or shamelessly) promoting yourself. You’re making sure your friends are aware that you can help solve their problems. You do us a disservice by hiding your brilliance. Let us know how you help.

3. Let them know you’re listening. The difference between 10,000 followers and 4 million followers is irrelevant. Seriously. It’s all about the relationship you have with your followers. Or friends. Or subscribers.

Ask questions. Answer @ replies. Reply to blog comments. Join the Facebook comment stream on your recent status post. Reply to emails. Let people call you. People want to feel like they are being heard, that their opinions, their stories, their passions really matter. But make sure that you’re not just listening in silence … to develop a relationship, they must know you are listening.

4. Join the conversation. So what if you don’t already have a bunch of followers/readers/friends? (don’t forget, *all* of us started with 0 followers on twitter.) What you do is join other people’s conversations. What are they tweeting about? Where is the debate going on in blog post comments? Who posted an interesting link on Facebook?

And these conversations don’t all need to be about business. Actually, most of them won’t be. They’ll be about regular life, the stuff you would talk about if you were meeting for coffee or having drinks in vegas. About travel. Kids. Dogs. News. Coffee. The latest preparation strategy for bacon. Creative uses for duct tape. Methods for killing ants using all organic ingredients. Share your resources, stories, opinions, laughs. Join the party.

5. Speak the things that everyone thinks but no one says. Everyone is walking around with a thousand things they are thinking but not saying (tweeting, blogging) out loud. And I know this because, for some reason, people tell me about their unspeakable things. And while I would never reveal any one’s unspeakables, when I see a trend, a common internal conversation, one of the reasons I’m on this earth is to bring that conversation into the open.

Not only is entering into the conversation in people’s heads a brilliant method for writing great copy, it’s also a way to skyrocket to leadership of a conversation — simply be the first to say what everyone thinks. People will be grateful & empowered to speak their own truth. You will be a nexus for a movement, an influencer of the big idea.

6. Be vulnerable. There’s a lot of talk about being authentic and transparent. And yes, I try to be both of those things. But so many people resist authenticity as a cliche & transparency as sharing too much information, I want to give you another way to think about sharing enough to bond you to your community.

Share the whole story about something. The bad side of what didn’t work out. The truth of the project that failed. How your business is great but your personal life has gone to heck. What’s not working in your business. And of course, share how you are turning it around, the lessons you have learned, what you are changing for next time.

My videos sharing how my business did not make a profit & how I was getting divorced, and my blog posts on being a crazy person and the bad side of transparency, were the most commented on & read of anything I have shared. Everyone has stuff that does not work out. There is always a “whole story” … sharing yours builds trust & endears you to your audience.

7. Tell a story. Every communication you have should tell a story. Every blog post, podcast, video … and even every tweet. The collective work of all of your content should share the story of you, and your business.

Yes, you can tell a story in 140 characters.

Not the whole story, of course (and besides, telling only part of the story creates a great cliffhanger). But you can share how the smell of these cookies baking remind you of your great-grandmother. The fact that you are not just buying shoes, you are buying your 45th pair of shoes. How you are not just hiking, you are climbing your 27th peak and can’t wait to read the peak log to find out who has gone before you.

Everyone loves a story. We as humans have been bonding over stories since we first sat around the original campfires. That’s how we bond with our children, and what we love to hear from our grandparents. Share your stories, and we will listen.

8. Don’t believe your own bullsh*t. When I go on someone’s bio or twitter profile and it says “social media expert” or “social networking guru” I involuntarily cringe. Why? Well, either they are trying to B.S. that they are an expert (when they are not), or they have some expertise but have lost touch & become lame know-it-all’s, unable to learn or listen.

Stay humble. No one knows everything. We are all still learning. And besides, everything keeps changing.

Find people who know something you don’t. Share when you screw up. Acknowledge when people with less experience or notoriety get it right (sometimes newbies have perspective we don’t, anyway). Be open. Pay attention.

9. Have fun. This is real life. And real life is pretty freaking ridiculous. Real people are ridiculous. Every kind of human, opinion, race, religion, political party, business model, theory, lame marketing campaign, and insanity is rampant through the social media universe.

So instead of spending time being offended or getting into a hot debate, have fun. Laugh it off. Share your own ridiculousness. Tell us how you are an idiot. Get over yourself & get real.

10. Be patient. The above “going to the ER” tweet was about my 19,000th tweet. Assuming around 100 characters a tweet, that’s over 300,000 words. Enough raw content to fill at least 6 or 7 books.

You will not get profound results from being on twitter for 5 minutes a day. You will not develop relationships from a few weeks of implementing a social media plan. Building relationships takes time, energy, and effort. Adjust your expectations. Make the investment.

11. Take it to the next level. Chat on skype. Talk on the actual telephone. Text message. Email. Have coffee, drinks, lunch. Connect at seminars. Tweetup.

Social media is a low transaction cost, highly scalable method to start a conversation and create a bridge between your other connection points.

But only by connecting in real life (IRL) can you feel the energy of the other person, who they are being, their presence. That next level is where life long friendships and business partnerships are made. Connecting IRL is what has changed my life (… and that’s a story for another blog post).

So has social media worked for you? Are you getting any results from Twitter? Are you still looking for your people? Please, share your story / questions / comments / feedback below!

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