I was speaking to my brother recently, (a security professional, U.S. Navy chief on weekends, daddy of three), who’s never been on Facebook and refuses to join. Those of us who have been actively using social media for years can’t believe that somebody actually refuses to join Facebook, but understand it’s a personal choice. I hear him and others describe what they think Facebook is and chuckle. But, what very few of us do is stop and reflect on how this platform has impacted our lives and the lives of others.
So today I will stop and reflect on this for a moment. It’s not about the number of friends you “collect” as I’ve heard it described – it’s about the quality of relationships you make, with extraordinary people you would have otherwise never have met and how you transcend that friendship into real life. Some new friendships made possible this past year because of Facebook are downright miraculous. Here are just four powerful examples of how Facebook has impacted my life and allowed me to impact others.
1. Because of Facebook I met Dali Rivera, a fellow veteran and entrepreneur, on the opposite side of the country. She told me about the program at Syracuse University called V-WISE (Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship). V-WISE is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. Dali introduced me to the V-WISE Executive Director, Tina Kapral and we had a series of phone conversations and signed a Memo of Understanding. Because of those connections made on Facebook, global sales of my new bilingual children’s book titled Good Night Captain Mama will share revenue with V-WISE for years to come; here’s the news release that details that relationship. Our unique literature will directly help military members leaving active duty (and those who are already veterans) learn entrepreneurship skills and match up with mentors and coaches. That way, instead of waiting ten years after leaving the military to start a business like I did, today’s V-WISE student veterans and conference attendees can start their businesses sooner, create economic activity in their communities and create jobs for others. I’m so happy to contribute to their important mission that perfectly aligns with my passions in this way.
Dali then invited me to speak at the Towson University where she works in the Student Veteran Services department. I led a “Personal Branding for Veterans” workshop and met more military veterans from different services enrolled as college students. I left there knowing those veterans, unlike most, will now go forward attacking graduate school applications or employment journeys, with a very different sense about how to tell their compelling stories. They will be able to differentiate themselves in the civilian marketplace.
In addition, I had the distinct honor of speaking with Dali’s 6 year-old daughter after she read my book. The inquisitive child had several questions for the author and asked her mother to please arrange a phone conversation. I cannot imagine ever having been able to do that as a child -how difficult would it have been to arrange a phone call with the author of a new, beloved book before social networks made these connections so possible? Thank you Facebook.
2. Through Facebook’s American Women Veterans page, I met Kerrin Torres- Meriwether, another military veteran. She wrote me an email after preordering some books. She touched my heart when she asked me to sign one of the books to the daughter of her twin sister, a Captain in the U.S. Marines, currently deployed to Afghanistan.
This email conversation continued and before I knew it, I was standing in her middle school in Maryland presenting to about 80 middle school students in the Cafeteria. I will always remember telling my story of how I became “The Unlikely Military Aviator,” the title of the presentation. I remember pretending to be an airplane as I talked about the STEM of aviation, about thrust, lift, drag, weight and described the aerial ballet that is KC-135 air refueling, all in English and Spanish. I will forever cherish the memories of the children of recent immigrants, all teenagers learning English as a second language, as they tried on my military flight suits and we took pictures remember the moment. Thank you Kerrin; thank you Facebook.
3. In the fall of August 2012, I was invited on Facebook to attend a party on Twitter. “Use the #LLN hash tag because we’re going to be discussing Latina Leadership,” I was told.
That Twitter party was attended by approximately 100 women. Someone suggested the organizer, Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin, create a Facebook group so we could connect with each other after the Twitter chat ended. We had realized during the Twitter party that in the group we had Latina professors, authors, business owners, PhD candidates, leaders of non-profit organizations, business executives, attorneys and more. That Facebook group was created the next day and within a few weeks grew to over 2000 Latinas. Many of us met up in the Silicon Valley when Justice Sonia Sotomayor came to town in February; one of the women in the group, a fellow Air Force veteran named Pam Campos, drove from Portland to meet up with the LLN hermanas she’d met in the Facebook group. Amazing.
Today, it’s a closed, secret group of nearly 3000 Latina Leaders and a group I interact with daily because we have so much to give to each other, so much wisdom to exchange. One of those women, Francesca Escoto-Zavala, reached out to me one day in June. She was coming to San Francisco to speak at a conference and said she’d love to meet in person. After months of sisterhood and online conversations in the LLN group, we were both comfortable enough to have her stay at my house. She met my three children who all loved her. Francesca helped us fulfill book preorders since her visit coincided with launch week for the children’s book; the whole thing felt like we had known each other for years. I now have a place to stay in Tampa and a friend and hermana in entrepreneurship. Thank you Facebook.
4. I first heard of Condor Book Tours on Facebook, a few weeks after launching my first book (Latinnovating) at Stanford in May of 2011. I wondered who the woman was that was helping promote authors and their books; they seemed to be present at so many blogs and I wondered how that happened. I reached out to Nilki the founder, but I got too busy with my keynote speeches and travel and didn’t get around to adding book blog tour to my marketing plan.
Two years later in early 2013, as the time approached to launch my first bilingual children’s book, I connected with Nilki again. This time, I made the book blog tour that she creatively offered the cornerstone of my marketing and launch plan. Boy, am I happy I did that! Nilki introduced my work to bloggers and reviewers that I never would have connected with on my own. The reviews, the connection with one of her clients who offered to review, the buzz generated via the social media connections we made on both Facebook and Twitter, all that activity led to the children’s book debuting on three different Amazon.com bestseller lists, reaching number #10 and #21 in the categories of Hispanic/Latino books and military books, respectively.
Plus, it also made the #1 spot on the Hot New Releases lists in both of those categories. Thank you Nilki and Condor Book Tours. Thank you Facebook.
I don’t know if my brother will ever join Facebook or how it could positively impact his life, but I do know this: it’s likely that for the rest of my life, I will be part of Facebook groups that have real conversations about meaningful topics. I know that I will start and participate in conversations with like-minded people (and those that are the exact –opposite minded) around the country and globe that I otherwise never would’ve engaged with, ever. I will receive advice from experts that would’ve been otherwise unavailable to me; I will share and exchange expertise with others.
I call that miraculous. Facebook has give me the ability to connect with people whose lives can be enriched through the work that I do, to positively impact the communities they serve, to actually be able to find them and to be found. It has brought people into my life that have greatly enriched my life with wisdom, ideas, networking connections and life-long friendships that have transcended into physical, offline life. Again, thank you Facebook; now, about that stock price…..