Yesterday, in my post about Greg Mortenson’s new book Stones Into Schools I mentioned that I had a realization about social media and Internet marketing while I was reading it. In this post, I want to tell that story.
First, I need you to understand that I started out as an extreme skeptic that social media (Twitter, Facebook and so forth) had anything to offer me other than annoyance. I just didn’t understand why so many people were so excited by these Web 2.0 ideas. In general I’ve always been in favor of expert content, written by experts and edited by experts. The idea of user generated content didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why would I want to look at content created by “average people” rather than researching and finding the best content, which I presumed was created by the best experts. Having grown up in a university town in a relatively scholarly family, then attended college and now spending most of my career working at a university, I guess this view isn’t all that surprising. But over a period of years a number of things started happening.
The first one was a couple of years ago I was involved with a high school play in which one character was a mime. The young woman who played that role (a high school freshman) was absolutely extraordinary. I asked her where she had done her training in mime, and was shocked when she told me that she had none. She had gone to YouTube and search for “mime,” and then figured out what she needed to do for her role from what she saw. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an extremely talented performer, but the idea that she could learn just from YouTube enough mime to do such an extraordinary performance just blew my mind. So I guess, that was my first introduction to the idea that user generated content could in fact be useful.
A year or so later, my friend Dave Gallant who had worked for me as a student at UNH, graduated. I stayed in touch with him, and was surprised to learn that he got his first job through Twitter, a service which had never struck me as having any value. As I continued talking with him I learned that he had really dedicated a significant amount of energy to learning about marketing in social media. In fact he now works at HubSpot, a company that helps business integrate social media into their marketing.
Then I started looking into Internet marketing, and after a substantial amount of research joined Pat O’Bryan’s Portable Empire Coaching Program. Very early in my work with Pat, I learned that he saw social media particularly Facebook and Twitter as important marketing tools. Of course I already heard this from my friend Dave, but I really didn’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, I trust Pat, and I think he really does know what he’s talking about, but it didn’t make any sense to me. I just didn’t get how people use social media to market their businesses. I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with Greg Mortenson’s Books, I’m getting there, bear with me, this does all come together.
Now by this time, I had finally given in and gotten a Facebook account, but I was using it in a very limited way. I saw it as a way to connect with people who I have lost track of since college who I really wanted to get in touch with, and it had worked for that purpose, but I still didn’t see how this “social media stuff” was useful for marketing. As I remember it, I think that both Dave and Pat basically encouraged me to use the tools to build relationships with people who had similar interests, and through that to build a network. At that time, I guess I wasn’t ready to understand what they were really asking me to do.
When I saw that Greg Mortenson had released a new book I bought it immediately. I started reading it last week, it wasn’t very far into it that Greg reminded us of the primary lesson he learned in the experiences that would become his first book Three Cups Of Tea. I’d like to let Greg share that story with you:
“Haji Ali spoke. ‘If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die. Doctor Greg, you must take time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated but we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.’ That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned in my life. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly…Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them.”
–Greg Mortenson in his first book Three Cups of Tea
I remembered fondly, the first time I heard the story reading the first book. I still didn’t get how it applied to me though. Fortunately, Greg kept returning to this theme of building relationship before trying to do anything else. And then all of a sudden, maybe two thirds of the way through the book, it clicked. This idea of sharing 3 cups of tea, of building relationships before attempting to do anything else finally clicked. I got the message that I had seen, but not understood in so many other places. So I started using Twitter. Meeting people, talking with them, learning about their interests. One of the people who I’ve met along the way is @WarrenWhitlock and I’m pretty sure that he was the one who said in one of his early tweets to me, “people won’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Which I guess really sums it up.
So thanks Greg for two amazing, inspiring books; thanks Dave and Pat for putting up with my cluelessness, and thanks Warren for saying it so clearly.
How would you describe your relationship with social media? Please comment! And if you know somebody who doesn’t seem to get social media, but who you think would like it if they did, please use one of the links below to send this post to them. You might be able to save a lot of time and trouble.