Putting the “social” into social media

I met my wife through an online dating website. So I like to think that I know something about taking an online relationship and making it a real relationship. What I learned from online dating is directly applicable to social media even if it occurred before any such term existed.

Here’s what I learned

You can connect with people online and get to know who they are. You can even discover if you have any connections and build the foundation for an ongoing relationship. But if I really wanted to get to know someone, I realized that I needed to connect with  them as people and not simply as an online persona.

I learned that it helped to talk to the person on the phone to get a sense of who they were. If we connected over a live conversation, I looked to meet as soon as possible because over time I found that it wasn’t until I was in the same room as a person that I had any idea whether we connected enough to get to know each other better–and I’m not referring simply to physical attraction. Meeting in person helped me to get to know a person’s personality in a way that I never found possible online or just over the phone. It also helped me to get an idea on their depth as a person, how they interacted with me and others and whether we enjoyed spending time together.

Take your online relationships into the real world

So when Joe Thornley spoke about taking online relationships into the real world at the last Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region, it resonated with me. As I observed in my opening remarks, there were people attending who I considered friends that I had originally met through social media. In every case, what turned an online connection into a friendship was meeting the other person in real life and getting to know them as people. The same is true for many of my newest professional working relationships. In fact, I believe that meeting Joe who I first met through Twitter at the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference helped me to arrange for him to come to speak to us.

There are many ways to enhance your online relationships. Tweetups, Social Media Breakfasts and similar events are one great way. An even better way is to join a group of people you follow online in supporting a charity, working together on a common cause, attending an arts event being discussed online or giving an online contact the opportunity to earn your business. My point is that by taking on online connection into your life (and vice versa) is how you truly put the “social” into social media.

Whether you are looking for romantic connections, friendships or working relationships, I encourage you to meet the people that you find interesting online. My life is richer by doing so and my business has a better chance of success because of the connections I have made online and extended by connecting in person.

The payoff is worth it

For a relationship to be fully realized, we need to know each other as people. We need to know what makes them tick. We need to know what they are passionate about. We need to know if their knowledge or expertise translates to the real world. We need to know if we like someone before we can care about them with any depth. And acquiring that knowledge sometimes that requires taking calculated risks as I did when I went to meet my wife in a room of Franco-Ontarians.

I am now happily married with a couple great kids and living in a city that I am passionate about making better. I am living the good life. A life that only happened because I had the guts to see if an online relationship had the potential to be something more.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear about how you have brought your worlds together–for better or for worse.