How Social Media Changed My Life… Really

September 15th, 2010 | Guest Contributor | 10 Comments

Guest post by Bryce Keane

Note I did not pay him to write any of the below, though I sure am grateful for it.

I know you’ve all heard this one before.

The Comms/PR person discussing the infinite merits of social media like it’s the second coming.

But bear with me. This is the story behind my monthly stories from here in London. And this fantastic blog plays a critical part, both cause and effect, in a way.

À la Simon Cowell

First of all, I should start out by being completely honest – I was a HUGE Twitter sceptic when I arrived.

Though I had personally used Facebook for a long time, I had always resisted Twitter. I viewed it somewhere between a passing fad and a slightly egocentric form of broadcasting one’s every move, action and generally meaningless thoughts that seemed to me to be irrelevant to everyone but the user.

Then, a few months after moving to London for work, Joey Ng (who worked with me at the time) gently served me a slice of humble pie and showed me the error of my ways.

What happened

We had a client trade show coming up. We were having trouble pinning down journalists and locking in interviews (actually we had none at all).

Then Joey (my AE) made an executive decision and starting searching through Twitter.

In the end, we walked away with 8 – 10 interviews and a very happy client in the end (me running around the tradeshow, her running “online recon and reach-out” from the office and then calling me with names and meeting times etc).

To this day, I still don’t know how we pulled it off but we did and suddenly my eyes were opened to the possibilities of Twitter.

What happened next was truly life changing

I found myself in a new city, with no industry contacts, and only a limited group of friends. However, I found that my new-found medium was a wealth of information, updates, industry knowledge and some genuinely fascinating people.

I found myself drawn to those people who clearly knew not only how to use this technology, but how to use it to help others, share knowledge and generally benefit our industry as a whole.

So one day, I decided to throw myself out there and contact some of these people, and see if they would be open to talking to someone who was bit new to both Twitter and London in general.

One of those people (and obviously I’m a tad biased, but it’s true) was our mutual heroine Shonali Burke. As it came to pass, I just happened to contact Shonali prior to her trip to London.

In return for some helpful advice and a number of chats, I was able to arrange a tweet-up/birthday drinks for some of her other London friends. So the circle became wider and, in this circle, I was struck by just how much knowledge was freely shared.

And it wasn’t the only circle I began moving in.

Encouraged by my positive experience with Shonali, I reached out to other key people in London and those people responded (whether it was out of pity or understanding, I may never know).

I have always had a genuine interest in meeting new people – in fact it is the probably the part of my job that I enjoy the most – but this little piece of online technology, these 140 characters, were slowly but surely changing my London life in a fundamental way.

For the better.

Over drinks, and at catch-ups, I began to pick up the subtle nuances of what drives my new friends. I think this was possible because I met these people with a genuine interest in what they do.

I learned about blogging, started guest posting on industry topics and things of interest for a few friends (Thank You again Shonali!), started my own blog, learned how to use these tools professionally and met people from all manner of agencies – many of whom I am now lucky enough to call friends.

I didn’t do this with any ulterior motive, but because the technology enabled me to meet new people and make new contacts in a way I had never previously been able to.

But there was something else about this new world that struck me.

Traditionally, I had always known the PR industry to be fairly guarded about “knowledge sharing” between agencies, but not here.

In this world, people were more concerned with advancing the practice of the industry as a whole and would regularly meet up to discuss any number of topics going on in the global industry at present.

What’s more, they were not just feeding my new-found curiosity with knowledge; they wanted to know what I thought about these things as well.

No matter how senior the position the person I was talking to may have held during the day, at social media events they were genuinely curious about me and what I thought as an equal.

Some of them even wanted me to write them down so they could publish my thoughts!

The fact that we are all equal in this social media world, and that not ego but knowledge and your ability to share it and to help others is what’s important, was like a bolt from the blue when one has worked for a long time in a traditional PR environment (where some still foolishly believe that ego is key).

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, because all this – though never an intentional or thought-out process – has enriched my personal life and, now, my working life.

On the 20th of September, I will be starting a new role as Senior Account Manager at The Propeller Group – working on traditional PR, Digital PR and App development.

This new position, which I am very excited about, didn’t come from a recruiter nor a direct application.

It came because another new friend, who I met through social media, personally recommended me, unbeknownst to me, because she believed from meeting me in person that I was a perfect fit for this agency.

The agency then proceeded to Google me, as many do these days, and it was then that I realized that – in trying to repay these new friends for their amazing impact on my life by writing for them on occasion – I suddenly had an “online profile,” which I’d never had before.

And though the job is exciting, the process doesn’t stop, because there are so many amazing people out there (in your city as well as mine) that I have yet to meet.

Now, though, I try and use this technology to help out my friends and loved ones where I can – as so many did for me when I was lost.

To me, social media – if used with genuine and honest intent to connect and learn – continues to prove the karmic theory that giving without expecting anything in return will always come back to benefit you in the end.

I still feel that I can never repay key people who helped me, but those same people have shown me time and again that is far more valuable to “pay it forward” whenever you can.

Image: MadMarlin‘s Flickrstream, CC 2.0

Bryce Keane is an international communications professional with experience managing a wide variety of communications campaigns in both the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions. Originally from Melbourne, he is about to move from Mulberry Marketing Communications to The Propeller Group. He has a keen interest in exploring issues that affect the global communications industry, and is always interested in hearing from other communications professionals with thoughts, feedback or just for a chat. Bryce publishes The Boy in the Bar. Reach him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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"A Little Birdie Told Me" could fly into your inbox just once a month. It's Shonali-as-seen-nowhere-else. What're you waiting for?

Bryce Keane
Bryce Keane

Hi Kami,

Thanks for your comments, and I agree - Shonali is definitely a role model for a genuine social model, rather than using the tech solely for personal gain. To be honest, and I swear this is the last time I shamelessly plug her, that is why it is such a pleasure not only to write here but to have this blog as one of the biggest influencing factors in the journey outlined above. Perhaps I was just lucky to have really good role models along the way so I unwittingly learnt good lessons early :)


Kami Huyse
Kami Huyse

Bryce; Really great story here. I will bookmark it as a case study for building influence rather than celebrity.

It's great to see the ways that we can all influence each other. Shonali is a good example of that.

Bryce Keane
Bryce Keane

Hi Kristina,

Thak-you very much for your kind words both here and on Twitter. It is interesting to me that you have raised the point about the difference between online and offline connections. To me, the whole point of one was that it might eventually lead to the other (granted, this could be a touch of naivety on my part) and I probably never stopped to give it proper thought. Still, I hope this naive mentality might actually have worked in my favour as it is those offline connections that (unbeknownst to me at first) then turned around and became my biggest advocates online whilst all the while I was just thinking to myself 'how cool is it to meet new people in London!'. A true example of the old phrase 'People Power'!



Kristina Allen
Kristina Allen

Bryce - thanks so much for sharing your story. As I said on Twitter, I really admire your fearlessness in reaching out to social media friends and making them real life connections. So few people take this additional step (for a variety of reasons), but it clearly has major benefits. Taking the reins and reaching out demonstrates great leadership qualities -- you're not just another "follower" (ah, Twitter humor). Hope you'll do another guest post and update us when you start your new position! :)


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