Social media — now for engineers too!

This week I’m turning {grow} over to the community this week and today offer a social media tale from an unlikely participant, my friend George Cooper. George is the engineer’s engineer and approached the social web with healthy skepticism. But as he explains here, there seems to be a place for social media even in the industrial world …

Social media is about connections.  No connections, no communication, and ultimately … no business benefits.  All of us start out with someone being the first connection, then a few at a time connect with us, then gradually we build a larger population… but why?

If connections are the “how” we are present in social media, our stories are the “why” our connections listen to us. Making connections and telling stories is something I can relate to.

Most of my work is with highly-technical industrial clients of one sort or another.  When I arrive at a facility, I know I’ll be talking with the client’s subject matter experts as well as incumbents in the job we’re there to work with.  I’ll need to establish my technical credibility with these folks, the quicker the better (the longer you drag it out, the less chance of success).  I always start out with who I am and why I’m there.  Sometimes, that’s met with the stony-eyed stare, the one that says, “You’re walking in the door to be an expert on our jobs?  Uh-huh.  Prove it.”

So, I begin to tell a few stories about places I’ve been and things I’ve done, usually from the perspective of when I had an opportunity to learn from others.  If I’m doing it properly, my audience’s concentration shifts from me to my stories, and they begin to connect to me through my stories

Then I get them to tell stories — THEIR stories!

Everyone wants to tell stories about what they do.  Some are better at it than others, some speak more freely than others, but pretty much everyone wants to make a connection and tell stories about themselves and what they do.  It’s the nature of humans as social creatures and the fundamental basis for establishing a relationship, work and non-work-related.

Which brings me back to social media, from an industrial perspective.

Those of us engaged in the industrial world have stories to tell, too.  I do.  I’ll shamelessly plug that I’m working to bring about an industrial renaissance in America, and see that telling those stories through the social web might be just the way to get things started.   I’m an engineer, here in the social media world, learning to make connections, tell my stories, and make things happen.  Hopefully, there will be people (maybe even you?) who will gradually hear about my ideas, become interested, connect with me and start a journey together.

I’d offer that social media – connections and stories – is about all of us, from marketing gurus like Mark to industrial folks like me, and everyone in between, who have a story to tell and a connection to make. It’s the next logical step, it’s the evolution of how we communicate and connect, isn’t it?

So if you’re struggling with colleagues and customers who don’t see a place for social media in their business, tell them to look me up. If I can work with it in my industrial and technical environment, they can do it too!

George Cooper of Development Concepts posts about an industrial renaissance in the U.S., workforce development, and things that matter.

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  • Hey George, I won’t speak for others but one of my admitted weaknesses in social media tends to be interacting only with those who have similar occupations. Probably so we’d have something to talk about around the “water cooler”.

    I’m learning more and more that you can join in on the conversations even if you’re no expert (this here blog is a great example). Plus you actually learn a thing or two from others in the process.

    I guess that would be that “networking” thing then, huh?

  • @George – I love the fact that this post hinges on the concept of telling stories. There is something primal and very human about story telling and I love that you use such an ancient art in your industry.

    With that being said I can totally relate I always try to engage my customers and ask them questions about who they are and what they do and 90% of the time they really go off on a story about who they are and then I will have a chance to do the same.

    By the time I walk out of a potential customers office or place of work A relationship has already been established.

    Just last week I spoke with a Woman in IT who is a prospect. I left school where she works at knowing that she loved dogs, grew up on a farm and had a degree in computer science and also learned about the different schools she attended.

    Just this week I signed a deal with a gentleman in CT, who owns his own company and from talking to him and his wife i learned that he rebuilds and races porches, is classically trained on the trumpet, likes cigars and spent ten years or so in his industry before he set out on his own.

    These conversations have really helped me to start promising relationships and build trust right from the start. Indeed the power of stories and our interest in others truly has the ability to build solid foundations.

  • Hi Johnny,

    One of the things I truly love about social media is the opportunity to follow people who live and work in different spheres from mine, because I keep coming across these, “Man, what a great idea!” moments when reading what’s going on.

    I appreciate your pointing out that idea here – thanks for commenting!

  • Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the kind words! I loved your stories. You are right – stories allow us to make a personal attachment to someone that is valuable in developing our relationship. It’s also an opportunity to learn about life and how others respond to it, and, in my case, many times the stories I hear in the industrial environment end up pointing me in directions where the client really needs help – a memorable client story usually is memorable because it was important.

  • George,
    I couldn’t agree more.
    Though some of the “experts” out there will tell you to keep your social “streams” focused on your niche, I have repeatedly found that the most engaging conversations I have on Facebook and Twitter are NOT about my business, but about sharing stories of Real Life. The thing is, when you share those stories, you’re making a HUMAN connection that, in my opinion, far outweighs the BUSINESS connection.

    People remember people who connect with them on a human level. And then, if and when there’s a relevant business opportunity, guess who gets the call? They guy who has been pumping out a steady stream of undiluted business content, or the guy who mixed it up by including a story about his trip to Africa, or maybe the funny things his kids say?

    I know who I’ll put my money on.

  • George, I enjoyed your post and I’m really liking this description of your work:

    “George Cooper of Development Concepts posts about an industrial renaissance in the U.S., workforce development, and things that matter.”

    You sir, are a great American.

  • Hi Jamie,

    Thanks for the feedback – the world is too interesting to stay in my niche (if I ever could define it!). I agree, too, that it is the human connection that leads to word of mouth referrals that end up as business connections… That’s how it works with me!

  • Hi Billy,

    Thanks for the kind words! I think the things that excite each of us are things we should write and tell stories about, with the hope that they will resonate with others and excite them… and pass it along.

  • Mark is a marketing guru? Yikes! I should treat him better!!

    I love what you have shared here. For me, creating time and space for someone to share parts (or all) of their personal story is like turning on a luminous light and truly seeing them for the first time. And not only do I feel grateful for seeing the human essence behind the role they’re wearing at the time ~ but the ‘character’ that is me in my story becomes richer for having done so.

    For instance, Johnny wrote a post earlier this week and two Introverts (me and Johnny) finally spoke together for the first time. I have carried his Kitchen imagery with me while using Twitter ever since ~ and I’ve been bolder in the Comment sections of other blogs since reading his comment that we aren’t always aware how often we carry our Introverted selves around and that he was going to engage more in blog commenting. (I hope I paraphrased that right Johnny, that’s the message that enriched me anyway.)

    Nathan sparked a desire for me to stop being so inhibited with ideas I’ve judged to be crazy and to enthusiastically go with the creative flow and see where it takes you.

    Just this morning, I thoroughly enjoyed a Twitter chat with Jamie about books, children and inspired authors ~ and I’d have missed this opportunity completely had she not shared her metaphor of Marketing and Street Entertainers earlier this week, prompting me to Follow her on Twitter.

    This morning, I read your comment on Kristen’s post from yesterday ~ and thought, “Yes, a man after my own heart! This ISN’T an issue to be isolated to companies and customer service.”

    While I do not have the necessary left brain capacity to be an Engineer ~ I very much delight in helping people re-frame, re-contextualize, re-write their personal histories in the places where pain, shame, etc. exists. Shining light on a story so that the inner wonder that is hiding in the darkness has a place to emerge and be seen ~ it makes my heart sing.

    Everyone deserves to feel proud of their stories ~ it’s their birthright … and will ultimately be the legacy they leave behind for others when they’re gone.

    Thank you for bringing such delight to my day George – I’m so glad you submitted this post to Mark!

  • It’s conversation.. you never know what you don’t know until you know it. I’ve learned more about a lot of things (and people) thru this forum. I love the quick conversations that lead to a longer relationship.

    None of us have to be convinced of the strength of SM but there are a lot of naysayers out there still. And that’s okay..they’ll join the conversation soon enough. I was having this conversation yesterday with the closest thing I have to an officemate. He doesn’t “get” location based marketing yet.. I told him that’s okay.. there were a lot of people who didn’t “get” Facebook 4 years ago (when I was there all by myself it felt like) and now look at it.

  • @Sally – I enjoyed our chat, too! 🙂 It’s those little moments that make places like Twitter and Facebook worthwhile for me. The social Web brings me tons of education, news, professional insights, business connections, and business leads; BUT the thing I like most is when it brings me smiles.

  • Wow, Sally, what a response – thank you. I think that the reason we are drawn to people’s stories in blogs and Twitter conversations and hanging out in Johnny’s kitchen is that we want to make the exchange personal – we don’t want dispassionate exchanges of words (we can get enough of that elsewhere), we want the human connection that Jamie mentioned earlier.

    There’s plenty of hurt, harm and harassment in the world (and on the web); extending these human connections wherever in the world we are helps us (well, me at least) feel more a part of everything that is good; a little more goodness, even if it is just a little, leaves each day better off.

    Kristen, your comment about the naysayers out there coming around I think is true; I think of all the people I know who were still wary of using the internet five years ago and how many of them are now on Facebook (!) that sooner or later the opportunity to explore through the web will help many people (not all, of course) open up to new ideas.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    @Sally No, I’m not a guru, but yes you should treat me better! : )

  • Hey Mark, you’re just in time! I’m about to take up a collection to send you somewhere else for a 3rd week. We’re having the best time here while you gallivant in Europe!

    Juste blaguer. Se dépêcher de retour, nous vous manquons !

  • Mark, this whole experience reminds me of when in my high school years a friends parents would leave for a vacation and we would have “ahem” sophisticated dinner parties at their house…

    With that being said, you would clearly be one of the “cool” parents.

    Thank you for this awesome opportunity and for letting us hang at your “house”

    You. Rock.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    It’s been fun to see the community come together in many ways. Thanks!

  • Thanks George for the nice post. I am an engineer who has spent my entire career on the business development and marketing side of technical products and services. I guess you can say that I liked hearing and talking to engineers more than doing design or sitting at a desk my entire career. As a female Mechanical engineer entering a field where at the time, many did not exist, I have many stories of successes and failures in sales, training and speaking to rooms full of 50 year old guys as a 24 year old sales engineer. The interesting ones include stories of shutting Harley Davidson down, trouble shooting Iron Ore boats in Lake Michigan, and walking through steel mills. etc. At times, it has been hard to translate these experiences as relevant to a world in social spaces. I now help these technical companies learn to be social, use social business relationships in the Web 2.0 era. Your post helped to remind me that I can talk about these experiences, share some laughs and let these companies know that I have been in their plants, know what a “walking dragline” is, have crawled through the guts of a car plant, and re-engineered the waste water treatment end of a slaughter house. Now that last one would make a good blog post!

    Thanks for reminding me that “my” stories matter and I should do a better job on my blog to share them.

    Find my social links at

  • Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for joining the discussion! My wife started out her career as an engineer, too, before switching fields to psychology, and I know that industrial life for female engineers is… different. But different can lead to amazing stories, as it sounds like you have experienced. The waste water treatment story? Sounds like you should tell that one…

  • George, great discussion. Just goes to prove that Social Media is not just about marketing and selling as some would lead us to believe. It’s just another tool for fundamental human interaction for whatever purpose desired.

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