By Sandra Zoratti, {grow} Community Member

“Social media makes a big world smaller.” — Jay Baer

I have been such a social media coward.  Even though I am a professional marketer and certainly no stranger to technology, the whole space has seemed so quirky and even a little intimidating.  Why bother?

Well, I am proud to announce that I am a new convert to the power of business relationships and the social web.  And it’s all Mark Schaefer’s fault.

Here is how I went from social media coward to a full-fledged convert in less than six months!

I was curious enough about what I was missing to attend my first social media conference — Content Marketing World in Columbus Ohio (yeah, Joe Pulizzi’s on the hook too).

I had started to follow Mark on Twitter and was excited to see that he was speaking at the conference.  I connected with him and he invited me to stop by his talk and say hello face-to-face during the Columbus event.  How kind!  I was so flattered.

I (gulp) missed our initial meeting time – admittedly, not my best first impression – and he was completely understanding. But we did finally meet and he was so kind and encouraging of my first attempts to connect with people in this social space.

During our conversation, Mark also told me about Social Slam, a conference he organizes so that virtual-based social media friendships can enjoy a face-to-face meet-up.  Sort of like a Social Media love-in.

Honestly, I found it a little hard to believe that people would fly from around the world based on 140 character tweets and some Facebook photos and posts just to meet up face-to-face with each other.  Could social media be that powerful?  Were these relationships that real?

Well, I knew one thing for certain:  I had to find out for myself.

Since then, a whole new world has been opening up before me.  Prior to that nudge from Mark, I had barely put my baby toe in the water of the social media world.  After his nudge, I began using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in new ways. And the results have been amazing.

Frankly, I have made (and still make) lots of missteps as I am learning; yet I am connecting with some incredibly inspiring people along the way.

Yes, I’m still a newbie.  One thing is apparent though, social media is powerful and can create rich friendships and meaningful relationships around the entire world. It is extraordinary!

My job requires me to travel around physically.  Twitter, FB and LinkedIn keep me travelling around virtually.  When the physical and virtual worlds meet, it’s magic.  While in New York City, I got to meet a few of the closest members of my Twitter family … and from these meet-ups, I now have new business collaborations, new connections, new friendships, and a new perspective.  Some of the new connections I have made in just a few months:

sandra zoratti

Me with new social media friends (clockwise from top left) Kurt Shaver and Jon Wuebben; dinner with Vitus Feldman; hanging out with David Kugelmas and Jan Gordon; posing with Kelly Kim.

So far, my short social media journey has been nothing short of a transformational experience for me.  And in April 2013, guess where I’ll be going?  You guessed it.  I’m flying myself to Knoxville, TN, to be part of Social Slam. In fact, I will also be participating in a panel there!

I’m a social media convert.  How about you?  Will I see you at Social Slam?  Will you be part of the magic of social media?

See you there!

Sandra Zoratti is an author, speaker, and Vice President of Marketing for Ricoh.  She was honored as Colorado’s Business Marketer of the Year in 2012. You can find Sandra on LinkedIn, Twitter @sandraz and on her website sandrazoratti.com.

Top illustration courtesy Photo Monkey

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