The Kindness of Strangers

Several years ago, I remember spending hours and dollars getting my first real Web site up and running.  Finally.  My dream business had a face.  It was so exciting.  How accomplished I felt.  And then a business coach I met at a conference told me rather matter-of-factly that Web sites were passé and that blogging was “where it’s at.”   I needed to get with it, he told me with a flourish.  You need to engage.

So I did what any girl that had just spent all of her money would do.  I became defiant.  There was no way I was going to spend more hours and dollars on customizing a blog when I had just customized a Web site.  Hmpfh.

But six months later, I got out of my own way and started blogging using a template - and to make myself feel better - linking to pages from my new Web site.  I sent an announcement to my email database letting them know about the new blog change with no idea about what I was going to say or how I should be saying it.  But I knew that I had to engage so I kept at it.  And then I found my voice.

Finding my voice was great.  No one really left any comments on my New Blog With a Voice, but I could see from my Google Analytics and from a few emails here and there that there were people out there listening.  I was actually generating a little traffic.

Then I talked to The Business Coach again.  “So you’re on Facebook, right?” he said (again) matter-of-factly.  “Uh, no.  I’m not on Facebook.” I responded.  “I have a page, but I’m not that social with strangers.”  He didn’t skip a beat.  “Well.  You need to figure out how to use Facebook.  You need to engage.” 

So I did what any girl that had just found her voice on her blog would do.  I stopped grumbling and requested my forgotten Facebook password and signed on.  And I watched. 

Pretty soon, I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad if I shared my point of view so I tippy-toed onto Facebook.  I made a personal vow to leave my personal business off of any Facebook Wall and decided instead to keep the chat about my brand mission.  I would engage openly and honestly, the only real way I know how to be.  No gimmicks.  No marketing.  Just engagement.  And it wasn’t so bad after all.

Fast forward to mid-January of 2011:  Of course, I’m no Gwen Stefani (2 million FB friends and counting), but I have a little over 1300 Facebook friends and guess what?  We engage.  *Insert happy face here.*  These once-upon-a-time strangers are now people I actually have feelings for (WTH?), the majority of them I’ve never met face to face, which is why I am writing this post.

I am writing this post because I am overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers my Facebook friends.  In an online travel blogging contest requiring that I get as many daily votes as possible, my Facebook friends rallied around me and pushed me (past other contestants with more votes!) into the Top Ten.  I have never been more moved by any online experience in my life.   Their votes and their enthusiasm (“Good luck, Tracey!” “Go Tracey! Go!” “We’re doing it Contessa!” “Go team Tracey!” “Don’t stop. Do not stop.”) were an unexpected and mind blowing surprise.  NEVER in a million years would I have guessed this would happen.  As I stated on one of my Facebook status posts:  I have never had ANY group of people rally around me in this way. #gratefultotears

Truth be told, I almost quit the contest…three times (gasp!).  I was raised by a family that believed in confidence, yet with humility and modesty.  But The New Game is self-promotion.  You can imagine how hard it has been to change who I am at my core to self-promote.  But I hung in there…and I did it with the encouragement of a supportive travel writer whom I’ve never met face-to-face who is also…you guessed it…a Facebook friend:  “After years of being trained and taught and raised to be modest, not be a showoff, egotistical, egocentric, [etc.], the whole self-promotion thing feels downright uncomfortable. But it's a new game with new rules.”  He was right.

The final contest results come in on February 14 but to use an appropriate cliché, I have already won.  A heartfelt thanks to those who took the time to vote for me, to believe in me, and to engage with me.  I appreciate you more than you will ever know.

Now.  If I can just get the hang of Twitter.  ;-)

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