Why Social Media Matters In a Down Economy

Whenever the Geek Girls are out and about talking to people about technology and tech tools that can enrich our lives, and maybe make them a little easier, we’re almost always asked about the amount of time investment required to jump on the social media bandwagon.  People are busy.  The economy is one bad news story after another.  Jobs are being lost.  We’re just trying to stay focused on caring for our families, keeping our jobs, keeping our houses and not getting panicked over our dwindling retirement accounts.  Who has time for social media?  Well, if you want to feel a little better, you do.

When we’re talking about Facebook, in workshops or panel discussions, I always suggest that Facebook can help you be a better friend.  I even wrote about it in a previous blog post.  When the economy is down we’re more disconnected from our social circles.  We socialize less, eat out less.  Leisure travel takes a hit.  The same sort of cuts are happening in our professional lives. Places of business cut back on spending and nix things like conferences, business travel, networking events. 

When I was a kid, my father belonged to a men’s club and a country club.  He was a lousy golfer, so the country club was always a mystery to me. But he was a man, so that club made more sense. But in retrospect, those two activities were my father’s way of keeping his fingers on the pulse of what was happening in town.  He even landed a pretty swank job because of a connection he made in the neighborhood, but really turned into something at the golf club.  This was back in the day when business people still made handshake deals over cocktails and 9 holes of golf.  Those people probably still exist.  But things are moving a hell of a lot faster.  There’s more to know.  And frankly, being on the golf course means you just might be missing critical information that matters to you.

Just yesterday I saw a number of folks I follow on Twitter tweeting about the power of positive thinking, and how businesses stay strong in tough economies by staying optimistic.  My friend and colleague, Gini Dietrich, the CEO of Arment Dietrich Public Relations in Chicago (@ginidietrich on Twitter), tweeted a link to a brilliant article about how positive thinking can actually boost your business.  It got me thinking about why all of this matters to our Geek Girls audience.  Certainly leaders need to stay strong in order to guide their teams through these uncertain times.  But who’s out there providing the encouragement that leaders need to boost their energies in that regard?  Other leaders.  How can we connect with them?  How do we tap into their advice and expertise?  How do we find out what they are doing, right now, to combat nagativity and defeatist attitudes in their work environments?  Social media! I always say, don’t give me lengthy dissertations — give me snapshots of information.  That’s the most valuable way for me to digest, and really use data.  Twitter is my dream resource.  Poo-poo it if you want.  But the people I’ve chosen to follow are (with a few exceptions) veritable fonts of professional wisdom and inspiration.  And, because I enjoy my work so much, and it plays such an integral role in my life, its a source for personal rejuvention as well. 

Facebook takes that a step further.  Yes, the information is still delivered in byte-sized packets.  But its more personal. Friends and contacts from a variety of areas of my life are connected and communicating on Facebook.  They are really investing in those relationships.  The investment is manageable.  We aren’t traveling to Tahiti together, or meeting up every Friday night, or heading to our home towns for slide shows of our recent family vacations.  But we’re still sharing things that really matter to us.  We’re still reaching out and engaging in a social way.  We’re still invested in each other.  And we’re all sort of in this together.  We’re sharing these moments with one another — the economy is precarious, there is real suffering out there, and yet, we have these moments of good to share, and hold onto.  They give us hope.  Whether they are personal or professional.  Your son scoring that winning goal in the recent hockey game.  Or landing that account you’ve worked so hard on.  They all matter and they all make a difference. 

It has been well documented that people need other peopleFriendships have a real impact on how people view the world, how supported they feel in it, and how they cope with the realities of it.  Articles are written every day about how human interaction eases anxiety and depression.  But everything is happening so fast.  This isn’t my father’s era.  He would have been stymied by how much information there is to keep up with and manage.  His way of keeping up was a couple of beers after work, or 9 holes of golf.  Now things move at the speed of light.  We have these tools at our disposal and they allow us to keep up with our little corner of this fast paced world.  Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that?  Are they the end-all?  Probably not.  Will there be something else that comes along next year to dwarf Twitter or Facebook?  Maybe.  Is that any reason to avoid the benefits of social media?  I’m saying no. Why would you avoid something that might keep you informed?  Tune you in to a job prospect?  Let you see a friend’s new baby on the day she was born? Hook you into the expertise of hundreds and hundreds of professionals FOR FREE?  The list of benefits goes on.  But my message stays the same.  The economy is in the tank.  But social media might just make you feel better.  It matters.  Really.