If you are like me, you have a lot of people that you “follow” via your social media channels. For example, I have over 2,600 folks that I follow via Twitter. But, out of those 2,600+ I probably only have the emails to a couple of dozen, and the phone numbers of a handful. My guess is that there are a lot of folks like me in the Social Media world. I like to run across new ideas by “happenstance”, but there are a few of those folks that I know will challenge me intellectually with what they say, and I’ve made an effort to keep closer track of these specific individuals. On my way into work this morning, I got to thinking that it is time to take a few of these social media relationships to the next level. (Creative Commons image by jhf)

A couple years ago, I read Keith Ferrazi‘s book Never Eat Alone. It was recommended to me by a partner in my firm, and I enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy for each of my library manager peers in my firm. The concept is very simple — take the time to meet with people you want to know better, usually over lunch. The idea behind Ferrazi’s book is that you have a lot of nodding relationships, but in order to better understand someone, or to open a comfortable line of communication between yourself and one of your colleagues, you need to meet face to face and actually have a conversation. All the emails, tweets, Facebook wall postings, etc., don’t replace the energy you get from actually meeting with someone and getting to know them better on a personal level.
So here’s my challenge to you. Pick 2 or 3 of the people you converse with on a social media platform that you would love to talk to face to face (your “fav 3”). I’m guessing that for 99.44% of you, these folks do not live in your city or work for the same firm or company that you do. Now, send them this message via a Direct Message on Twitter, or an email (standard email, FaceBook email, or LinkedIn email, Pony Express, whatever):

I saw this (http://bit.ly/5adI1) and thought of you. Next time I’m in [enter person’s city] or you’re in [enter your city] let me take you out to lunch. – [enter your name]

Do this for just 2 or 3 of those folks you’d really like to meet. Don’t worry about hurting the feeling of the other 2597+ people… chances are they probably will never find out that they are not in your “fav 3”.
For me, my “fav 3” are in Los Angeles, Boston and London. Believe it or not, the cities did not play a role in my picking the three. Now, chances of me going to London anytime soon are slim to none, but if I do, I’m offering to take someone out to lunch! My goal is to make the effort to better know a few select people and build upon the relationships that we’ve formed online.
Select your “fav 3” carefully. There’s a great saying by the author Margaret Atwood that I quote a lot – “Wanting to meet an author because you like their work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pate.” We’ve all experienced this at one time or another. I remember meeting one of my law school professors for the first time. I’d read some of his writings and thought he was a genius. Then I met him. Turns out that sometimes you can be a genius, but still be a big jerk, too. I don’t think that my “fav 3” are like this, but I could be wrong. I guess I won’t know until I actually meet with them face to face.
Now, do me one other favor. Once you send out your message to your “fav 3”, come back here and put a comment that says “Next time I’m in [list the two or three cities], I’m taking someone to lunch.” I’m really hoping that I’ll see a lot of “Houston’s” in that list!!