One of my favorite movies is Rounders (1998) which features Matt Damon as a young poker player who has a gift for the game. How could this possibly have any relation to social media? In one of the scenes, the main character travels to Atlantic City to get back into the game after taking some time off. Once arriving, he finds a table filled with all the local players from his underground club in New York. One of the players notes, “You know, if we wanted to take each others rolls, we could have just stayed home.”
I thought about this for a while in the sense that many communications and marketing professionals who are big proponents of social media may feel the same way at times. If you find yourself always reading information and chatting with the same community members, it may be a sign that you’re staying too close to home (so to speak.) If you’re chatting online with the same people you see on your blog who are the same people you’re meeting at a conference, you’re missing one of the great opportunities for growth that social media can provide.
The ability to meet and learn from others who are physically far away from you and, just as importantly, professionally far from what you do is essential if you’re really going to grow. If you’re a PR person, reach out to a marketer or salesperson who will approach a customer relationship with a different viewpoint. Find an economist that will drive you identify the financial impact of your ideas. Consider seeking out a copy editor who can help you improve your writing through tips or developing a genuine relationship. Or find another colleague who thinks differently than you do in terms of tactics and strategy.
There is nothing wrong with building strong friendships and supporters within your community, it’s actually critical to have that too. However, there are so many quality ways to improve your skills via social media. I encourage everyone to resist the urge to succeed in building a community and relaxing too much into a comfort zone where you’re not challenging your own thinking and continuing to grow.