Let's face it: the use of social media in your everyday work and play activities is hardly a recent development. While new tools appear – and disappear – every day, our worlds aren't just augmented by them; they are permanently changed because of them. In a recent column for The Verge, Nilay Patel wrote, “The Internet isn't an adjunct to real life; it's not another place. You don't do things 'on the Internet,' you just do things.”
As soon as we recognize this and stop focusing on the fact that the Internet has changed how things happen every day, it becomes easier to concentrate on what's important – how to do our jobs, enjoy ourselves, and live our lives better. That's where making these tools work for us – as opposed to us “working” those tools – comes into play.
A few months ago, a young woman new to Seattle followed me on Twitter, which I reciprocated. After noticing that she had interned at a fellow MDC Partners agency in the past and had an interest in sports, we randomly connected on a few things, as one does on Twitter. We left it at that. As someone helping lead a growing PR team in Seattle, it's always good to be in tune with strong PR talent in the area, especially with those who understand the myriad social tools available to us, as was the case here.
Over the next few months, we periodically kept in touch via Twitter and LinkedIn, ultimately speaking during this past month about what her goals were in the PR space and how we were looking to expand our local team. Ultimately, this led to us “formalizing” the process. She'll be joining our team on Monday as an intern.
You might be saying, “That doesn't sound so out of the ordinary.” You'd be right. Here's the catch: while we didn't have a business opportunity to grow our team when we first connected, periodically tapping a few tweets here and there helped “keep tabs” on what might have been a premature discussion last fall. Instead of seeing this as “let's file someone's résumé somewhere” only to need to “dig it up” months later, it was simply “let's have some level of relationship with someone we think is ‘interesting' in town.” This enabled the conversation to accelerate when an opportunity to add a team member did present itself. No pressure, no stress, it simply “worked” without breaking the bank time-wise.
The same can be said for journalists, who are so important to our work every day. A wise PR person once told me, “Make sure you're talking to journalists when you don't have something to pitch them, not just when you need something.” That advice has paid off for me numerous times. This doesn't mean to Twitterstalk your favorite TechCrunch writers or follow news anchors on Instagram as a means to an end, but if you have some genuine interest in what they're doing and talking about (and looking to write/cover), you're far more informed when you do have something about which to connect with them.
Being goal-oriented, as opposed to “shiny object”-oriented, is how we should be living, working, or playing. Forget about what the mechanisms are that get us to our objectives. Focus on finding the ones that work best for you, within the time and budget you have available for them. Just as the simple adjustment of wearing slip-on shoes while traveling can take away a moment of stress at a TSA checkpoint, you can use a service like IFTTT to send you an SMS when your mom sends an email, so she feels like you're paying attention to her as much as you are “liking” your friend's posts on Facebook.
From simplifying challenges to helping with delegation, the social tools available today can help us all be more productive communicators. As an added bonus, this could help us achieve the work-life balance we all strive for in today's digitally dominated world.
Tom Biro is VP of Allison+Partners' Seattle office. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tombiro.