By Contributing {grow} Columnist Srinivas Rao

When I look at social media I don’t see a way to lower your cost of marketing, increase ROI, or grow your brand. What I see is access to a global networking of inspiring people.

You see, the benefits of blogging, tweeting, and social media extend far beyond the walls of your business and the depths of your pockets. When you take the approach of making friends instead of followers, the world opens up to you in a way that you never imagined possible.

A few weeks ago, I sold everything I owned and left the U.S. to move to Costa Rica with some pairs of shorts, t-shirts, a surfboard, a laptop and a camera. That’s it.  I think you’ll see why concentrating on “friends” instead of “followers” has helped my journey in immeasurable ways:

A Couch to Sleep On

I recently had a chat with John Falchetto, one of my favorite new bloggers on the rise. It’s coincidental that I found an expat life coach just in time for my relocation to Costa Rica.  In my chat with John he told me something that really struck me. He talked about the importance of connecting with people who are not your clients. I’m not one of John’s clients and he’s not one of mine.  So you might be thinking, why connect?  Because we’re interested in each other as people.

I’ve been struggling to figure out where I’m to stay during Blogworld since I’ll be in New York City for 10 days and I’m on a tight budget. A few days ago John offered me a pull-out couch in his room. So now I have a place to sleep. But  I didn’t connect with John because he had a couch for me.  It was because I like his story and I think what he’s up to is interesting.

A Second Family

Adjusting to life in another country can be a challenge. For me the whole expat experience has had its share of ups and downs and there are days when I feel like living the dream is more like living a nightmare. Fortunately, I’ve had somebody like Mark Harai to help ease my transition to my new life.  If you spend even a few days at his house, you’ll quickly find yourself with a second family. There’s never a dull moment in his household with four kids, and his wife will make sure you are well fed.  How did I find my second family?  It all started because of our conversations on Twitter. What’s even more interesting is that it has actually resulted in us doing business together even though it was not our original intention.

A Suit for Blogworld

When I found I’d be speaking at Blogworld, I realized I didn’t have a suit. Just shorts, remember? When I wrote about this in a recent post, Dino Dogan offered to send me a suit so that I wouldn’t have to buy one and bring one back to Costa Rica. I don’t know how, or if, we’ll ever do business together and neither does he. But you can be sure that when I have the opportunity to return such a favor, I’ll do it no questions asked.

Conversation for Sake of Conversation

When I recently spoke with Dino, he told me one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard. He said the key  to success on the social web is to completely eliminate self interest.

It seems counter-intuitive that in the process of trying to grow your blog or brand that you would eliminate self interest.  But based on my experience it seems to work quite well. We get caught up in metrics, measurements, ROI, and more that we often forget about conversation for the sake of conversation. I’ll go so far as to argue that some of the greatest value is created through casual conversations.

This is where trust is created, relationships are built, and friendships are formed. It’s never about what you can get.  It’s about what you can give.

The human ability to detect insincerity is amplified on the social web. When we stop trying to “work the room,” we tend to get the world handed us on a silver platter. What’s been your experience?

Srinivas Rao is a contributing writer to {grow}. You can read more of his original writing at The Skool of Life blog or listen to his podcast at BlogcastFM. Follow him on Twitter at @skooloflife


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