“We’re Facebook friends,” I said to the reporter who’d sat next to me during the press conference. “It’s nice to meet in person.”
She looked at my name tag, shrugged, and walked away.
So much for the efficacy of social networking. It was more like a case of eff-you-cacy. My first instance of meeting a virtual friend in the real world: the only thing missing was a slap in the face.
Which merely confirmed my suspicions. All along, since joining LinkedIn about three years ago, since joining Facebook a year ago, I’ve wondered if there’s any point to all this professional and social networking. I’ve accumulated 78 LinkedIn connections and can boast 100-percent profile completeness, yet I’ve never had a single assignment as the result of it.
Of my links in that network, one woman boasts over 500 connections of her own. We worked as copywriters at the same company a decade ago, but I’ve never encountered her since. She’s a food writer. That could mean we still have grease in common: bacon, on her part, axle on mine. (I’ve had the same tub of axle grease for more than 30 years—just try that with bacon!)
Another of my links is to a nurse who blogs for AnnArbor.com, specializing in issues related to aging. She connected with me when my byline appeared on the site. I’m one of her 419 connections. Without the daily paper coming to my door, I don’t even read the sports any longer, and I sure haven’t been going online to look for her blogs.
Yet another link is to an ad man with 315 connections. I honestly have no idea how I know him, if I do know him, nor the account his agency handles. If I drop him as a connection, would he notice? If he noticed, would he care?
It’s impossible. I don’t know how to drop a LinkedIn connection. I’m eternally wedded to him and these others.
I have dared to delete a couple of Facebook friends, whom I friended or accepted late at night after a copious quantity of beer. So far, as the result of my daring action, of my assertive defiance, no package bomb has been left at my door nor vitriol smeared around the Internet.
Soon after the first actual meeting with a virtual friend, a second similar incident occurred. It was with Lauren Fix, another journalist who specializes in automotive subjects, and it went much better. (She’s a gracious person, and I don’t think she’ll mind being mentioned.) Facebook had suggested her as a friend, and my invite was accepted. So I recognized her on the way out of a Chevrolet press event, introduced myself, and ended up talking shop. Lauren is frequently interviewed on TV and radio, and I was interested to know how that got started. And I marveled when she told me that her networking on Facebook (788 friends) and LinkedIn (more than 500 connections) has led to real freelance assignments.
We sat together during a GMC presentation the next morning. They rolled out their concept “urban utility” vehicle, called the Granite. I leaned near and whispered, “If it’s used to transport cheerleaders, is it the Pomegranate?” Lauren seemed to come just that close to belly-laughing, which would certainly have interrupted the occasion’s solemnity. How I wish she had!
I saw her again two days ago at the Detroit auto show. We spoke vaguely of collaborating on a project. Undoubtedly, a major new syndicate is in the offing, and I owe it all to social networking.