When I talk to people outside the echo chamber about social media tools like Twitter or Friendfeed, there’s one key element of it that is very hard to get across – community. Of course, most businesses understand the idea of community as a group of people who share the same interests and can contribute their ideas to a product or service, and that’s completely valid. But real community – the way we think of our neighbours, our families, our church / theatre group / team, is much more meaningful than just like interests. It’s not just a business relationship – it’s about helping each other out when it’s needed.
A few weeks ago, I was at BlogWorld Expo with Overlay.TV. My flight wasn’t until later the day after the conference, so I decided to spend a bit of the day walking around before I took off to the airport. I decided that I would pick up something for my girlfriend at the Paull Frank store on the strip, and as I was about to pay, I made the horrifying realization that my wallet was no longer in my pocket. Whether I left it on the counter at the last store I was at, or someone lifted it will remain a mystery, but it was officially gone, along with my money and all my cards.
I cancelled my credit cards without incident, but that wasn’t the problem. I had no cash, nor access to my cash… and I needed to get to the airport.
I tried talking to the front desk at the hotel I stayed at, but they were no help (side note: up yours, Vegas Hilton) so I turned to Twitter. I had met Rich Becker the night before at dinner, and, being the only person I knew who lived in Vegas, I messaged him and asked him to call me. By the time he called, he had seen my Tweet, and generously offered to meet me after work and take me to the airport, thereby saving me a three-hour walk through the desert.
Rich not only picked me up, but gave me money for dinner, apologized for not being able to invite me over for dinner with his family that night, and told me how embarassed he and his wife was that something like this happened in their city.
When I got home, I naturally sent Rich the money he had leant me for dinner, and a week later, I got a message from him saying that it wasn’t necessary, and so he had donated it in my name to a cause that was near and dear to his heart.
Given the kindness that Rich showed me – a complete stranger – in a time of need, the least I can do is to encourage all of you to help a member of the community and donate what you can to the 2008 Arthritis Walk. It’s an important cause, and one that touches the lives of many people.
It’s important to talk about the business and enterprise benefits of social media, but it’s a nice reminder that community still goes beyond products and services, and connects people.