I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

My friends are turning into Amandas

I was thrilled to see one of my all-time-favorite college interns, Amanda Mooney, quoted in the current Business Week cover story: Beyond Blogs; what business needs to know about social media.

As I finished the piece, I thought “Not bad, but if they really want to illustrate social media for their readership, BW should have just profiled the last two weeks, or years, of Amanda’s on-line life.” Even the limited highlights I know would have illustrated the power and reach of social media better than a traditional survey story. (Briefly, it’s a tale of how to parlay social media to get you from Hampden, Maine to a job on Madison Avenue–long play version at end of this post.)

But then I thought–Amanda is 23 years old. The typical BW reader would easily dismiss Amanda’s experiences as irrelevant to their own forty-something business life. So I started cataloging the impact of social media, in the month of May, in a certain forty-something’s business life. Not just my own use of social media, but that of my colleagues and friends, who don’t necessarily aspire to guru status in social media, yet are gravitating there in really interesting ways. Here are a few examples:

  • I was contacted on LinkedIn by a man who was looking to recruit a social media exec to his start-up. I wanted to help him network, we shared a cold one and a chat on a particularly spectacular Boston May afternoon, hit it off, and he made a couple of helpful introductions for me. One of which may lead to an investment in my company. This all due to my tagging my LinkedIn profile with a couple of relevant keywords, and his openness to finding strangers on the platform.
  • I’ve had two recent meetings with new people where the person (again, deeply experienced exec types) worried out loud that I could track their exact behavior in reading my blog. (I can’t–WordPress stats are pretty aggregated and don’t always add up to make sense anyway.) It was interesting to me that these people were innocent enough to trawl my blog without thinking about reporting, but then sophisticated enough to have morning-after worries. (Will she think I was stalking her?) It was charming, for me, as a narcissistic blog-writer.
  • I helped a couple college kids get summer internships by finding opportunities on a Yahoo group for startups.
  • I had a couple interesting introductions this month from a marketing maven man I met on a Yahoo group last year. I had noticed all these terribly smart and helpful answers to business questions posted by a Mike Volpe of HubSpot. I checked out his business, kept seeing the answers rolling in, and contacted him with a message that was something like “I have no big agenda–I just want to meet you.” We’ve stayed in touch–although never once seen each other again in person–and he keeps referring really great people to me. (And I keep championing his business too.)
  • I intermittently follow a Twitter “celeb” named Pistachio who uses the platform to advance her business, which she describes as “Making Power Points Suck Less”. She’s funny, prolific, and irreverent. One recent day, Pistachio Tweeted about coming back from a weekend away knowing her husband was moving out. I sent her a private “buck up” message, thinking, “this woman is a Twitter star–she sure as heck does not need a message from me, a virtual stranger.” Fast forward a week and I meet her–for real–at the DEMO cocktail party. “You’re Pistachio?? Really?” (And I’m thinking…I’m so excited, but how did I become a groupie of a woman who does Power Points for a living, and I hope she doesn’t think I am a dweeb.) We chat–she’s even funnier in person–and I am secretly delighted to learn that although her Twitter-heavy life has brought her hundreds of new friends, she “only has four or five friends in Boston.” I think–maybe I have a chance to be her pal!
  • The Nantucket Conference created a LinkedIn group before the event, which provided a great way to warm up to the always-slightly-intimidating prospect of meeting a lot of strangers in a fairly intimate setting. One VC LinkedIn to me ahead of the event and I was definitely more positively inclined to work with him than I’d otherwise have been.
  • I was video-interviewed on Nantucket (I really liked that, Sim, the interviewer, used one of those uber-simple Sony Flip cameras–I’m convinced “simple” is the number one consumer product strategic tool these days) and found the piece hosted on YouTube. A first for me.
  • I am discovering a bunch of new blogs because of the new Sphere integration on WordPress.  This is a deal where Sphere pulls in three relevant posts from other blogs or traditional media at the bottom of a post. So, if I write about, say, Granny Smith apples, WordPress, through the invisible hand of Sphere, links to three other writers’ work on the topic–which appear at the bottom of my post. I really like following those inbound and outbound links, even though they usually lead to really strange blogs.
  • Jeff Yolen, a dynamic exec from Sphere, became an advisor to my biz Daily Grommet. We met at Nantucket, but he’d already had plenty of time to check out my credentials beforehand. This blog has increasingly become my resume. I bet Jeff has never even seen my real resume.
  • My business pals are increasingly posting Facebook status updates. They don’t tend to be people I’ve known the longest, but I am feeling surprisingly connected to them because of this window into their fascinating existences. I am slightly, ever so slightly, feeling less connected to people who aren’t on this media.
  • So, in this vein, I recently sent two virtual gifts to Facebook friends. Spending $1 to send nothing but pixels was an inconceivably lame and pitiful activity, in my mind, 18 months ago. Now I love it. So Frank got a bowl of chicken soup because he posted about being under the weather two days in a row. I would never “in real life” have called Frank up, or brought him a bowl of soup because he was sick. I like Frank very much, but that would be just too much. Enter Facebook virtual gifts. Same thing in sending a bottle of champagne to Gill because she got her green card. I loved knowing she got it, and, in my own tiny way, helping her celebrate.
There’s lots more to tell. Like, how does one assess the friend requests from friends-of friends on Facebook? I stick to my rule of only accepting invites from people I really know. But then I check out some of these profiles and realize these people are credible, not creepy. And I wonder, “What would Amanda do?” I think I’ll have to call her up for some social media use counseling. Naah. Not call her. That’s way too old school. I have to catch her at the next Tweetup.
P.S. Here’s the Amanda Mooney story: A small-town Maine girl with bright lights-big city “I wanna work in PR” dreams, who deliberately becomes a self-styled social media maven during college, and parlays her hard work, winning personality, and unmissable presence on social media into landing her dream job at New York’s Edelman Digital. No wonder she is quoted in BW as saying “The new resume is 140 characters” because her 140 character Twitter posts went a very, very long way in getting her noticed by Edelman, and plenty of other social media luminaries. I myself go to events and meet techies and execs of all stripes and sizes who “know” and admire Amanda purely because of her Twitter presence. Most of them have never met her in person. I feel like my own social cred goes up just for having hired her!

5 Responses to “My friends are turning into Amandas”

  1. Dharmesh Shah

    Great article. I have a bunch of these anecdotal tidbits from my social media meanderings too. It’s amazing how things are changing.

    By the way, Mike Volpe is indeed a real marketing maven. Granted, I do have a biased opinion, because I work with him at HubSpot. But, he’s just an all around great guy and gets the new world order of marketing as much as anyone I know.

    Reply
  2. Amanda Mooney

    Jules, this is such a nice post, especially considering that you were one of my first mentors in the digital space. It is amazing to see what’s happened in the past few years. Social media supercharges anyone who loves building meaningful professional and personal relationships. Before meeting you at Ziggs, I had no idea how much my life would change because of the Web. I come from a family of tech laggards, so the other day when I was out with friends picking up BW, talking about our blog and recording some video and photos to share on our site, I had to stop and ask, “when did I become such a geek??” 🙂

    I totally share in your and Dharmesh’s appreciation for Mike Volpe and Laura (@pistachio) and would definitely love to meet up for a Tweetup.

    Reply
  3. Mike Volpe

    I am a decade older than Amanda, many of my friends are not actively engaged in social media yet, and I had to learn how to work the Internet into my career since it was not widely used when I graduated from college.

    But I still use social media a lot. Social media is a great way to keep tabs on what your friends & contacts are up to. I can keep in touch with a far larger group of people, and still feel better connected to all of them. Few of the people I follow on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/mvolpe70) are people I have met in “real” life (is the Internet not “real”?) but we chat and have a relationship, about as real as any relationship I have with people I work with.

    I also use social media to make more and new friends/contacts. I do think it is OK to accept “friendships” from people you have not met, as long as you have interacted in some way, or it is clear you have very overlapping interests. A lot of people send me friend requests after I give a webinar or in person presentation, even if we did not have a lot of 1-1 interaction. They will remain my friend as long as their next step isn’t to start throwing sheep at me or send me requests to another stupid Facebook group that is trying to see how fast they can get to a million members.

    Reply
  4. Mike Volpe

    PS – I hope to see you all soon. I think there was a tweetup this weekend in Boston, but I missed it – I was (and still am) down the Cape. As soon as Boston.com tells me the Sagamore Bridge backup is no longer 10-15 miles, I’ll be on the road back to the South End.

    Reply
  5. Martha Garvey

    Great list. I’m in my 40s also, and have been online, off and on, since 1981. I’ve yet to go to a tweetup, but one of my networks (43 things) is throwing me a virtual birthday party this week! And I just made my first donation-via-Facebook (to Broadway Cares) to get an app I wanted so I could organize the plays I go to see.

    It’s a wild and interesting time we’re living in.

    Reply

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