Twitter and the kindness of strangers
by Josh Bernoff
I'm now on my first trip to Asia, Tokyo and Seoul specifically. I was avid to bring our idea to the people here, but I had a problem. In 50 years of being alive I had never tried Japanese or Korean food. It's not that I didn't like it, I just had no experience and a little fear.
So I reached out to Twitter and asked for help.
About a month before my trip, I suggested a deal -- if you're in Boston, I'll take you dinner at the Japanese or Korean restaurant of your choice. You explain the food, I'll try to provide interesting conversation.
As @jbernoff, I have 7,000 Twitter followers. Interestingly, this tweet generated exactly two takers, one for each type of food. Jeana Lee Tahnk (@jeanatahnk) brought her sister along -- they're of Korean background, and her sister had actually spent a year in Korea. Jeana is a PR person. Sean R. Brooks (@seanrbrooks), who runs the social applications at TechTarget, did the honors for Japanese food. And you know, I liked most of it! (Not a big fan of kimchee.)
What I find interesting about this is, amid all the discussion about the downside and risk of social networks, this worked fine -- in fact it was great. Why? Because although I didn't know Sean and Jeana and most of my followers, I could find out about them. When they responded, I could easily check them out and see if I wanted to spend an evening with them. From their various online profiles they seemed like reasonable and interesting people, and they sure were. You can use social networks to meet valuable strangers, but just be careful what you broadcast, and use the available info to check people out.
Can you do this?
I'm sure you're saying "sure, Josh, but you have 7000 followers". Well, I started with no followers two years ago, just like everyone else. If you want 7000 followers, you've got to start -- and you've got to say something interesting. But if you invest the time, you'll create an asset that's not just something to reap for publicity, but a collection of people you can tap, just ask I did, for whatever help you need. But you won't get there unless you actually start.
By the way, for all the sophisticates out there who feel everyone knows this, in talking to corporate America, they mostly don't. Just trying to raise a little consciousness.
By the way #2, now that I'm here, I find out the real problem isn't the food, it's how to work the toilet control in the hotel room!