How Social Networking Saved This Introvert’s Life


Are you an introvert?

Me, too! Pleased to meet you. In our favorite way: digitally!

Does social networking make business easier for introverts? It’s made it easier for this introvert.

Growing up I was shy and bullied.

I’m sure one of you just said, “Awwwww.”

Thank you.

I never had those early confidence-building sports experiences. I was short. Even though I was pretty awesome at dodge-ball, I was always picked last.

I was the thoughtful, quiet, little blonde kid. Never smiling. What was there to smile about? Always knew when you were looking at me. Hated eye contact.

Didn’t know what to say when you said hi to me. Feared the worst from my peers because it happened so often.

One time I was riding my bike home from school when some of the cool kids yelled at me to come over. “Cool!” I thought to myself. “They want to hang out with me!” As I got closer, they sprayed shaving cream all over me. I pedaled home, the bespectacled snow-boy. Sponsored by Gillette. Trying to not to cry.

That was a typical school experience. I eventually developed full-blown social anxiety.

Is it any wonder I loved computers?

Here’s some of my nerd cred:

  • At age 11, I had the first model of Macintosh computer. I created my own font.
  • I played D&D. I was familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1986. I paid $20.00 for G.I. Joe comic #1.
  • I was I a Rush fan. I wrote my 11th grade term paper on the band Yes. Like the 40-Year-Old Virgin, I thought Asia was an awesome group.
  • I didn’t kiss a girl or get my driver’s license until I was 17.

Heck, even at the age of 25, I began to woo my future wife through email. Nerdy and flirty and almost thirty. I was able to be me digitally, long before I was able to be me in person.

“Hi. My name Is Brian, and I’m an Introvert”

I began to overcome my social anxiety by joining Toastmasters at the age of 26. Toastmasters is a support group for public speaking. Its members build you up. You get a mentor. You do 10 basic speeches. You take leadership roles. You run meetings. It brought me out of my shell.

If you’re socially phobic, join Toastmasters. It’s a support group for public speaking. [click to tweet]

But I still didn’t feel like I was showing up to my life. A lack of imagination trapped my personality in my mind and heart.

Until one day, I watched the documentary for a Dane Cook comedy tour.

I thought, “I could do that. I might not be the funniest comedian ever. But I could be better than some of these guys!”

I read 12 books about stand up. I Googled local open mics. But I didn’t go. I wrote for six week. 100 pages of material .Then I realized if I didn’t go public with it soon, I never would.

I started doing stand-up comedy open mics at age 33. Open mics are the Navy Seal Boot Camp of public speaking. If you can survive them, any regular speaking gig becomes a piece of cake. If you get laughs, you have a new weapon in your communications arsenal.

The other lesson in there was:

If you’re an introvert, and want to try something new, read 5 books about it, write 5 pages about it, then do it! [click to tweet]

By the way, only about 90 seconds of my first 100 pages was funny, according to audiences.

How Stand-Up Open Mics Saved My NBC Gig

In June, 2014, I was in Las Vegas to do a keynote for NBC. We rehearsed the introduction and beginning of my speech with the PowerPoint the night before. The next morning they brought me up to much applause, and the PowerPoint promptly didn’t come up.

It was just me onstage staring at 200 TV professionals staring back at me.

I might have stammered or freaked out, but I didn’t. I’d been to boot camp.

I started doing my PG-13 rated stand up jokes. They laughed. I entertained them until the PowerPoint came on. They cheered and we all felt like winners.

It wasn’t just a momentary victory. The audience was on my side and loved me for prevailing over that cataclysm. The meeting planner who’d hired me apologized afterward. I said, “No, you don’t need to apologize. That was awesome!”

It was awesome because I handled it. Stand-up open mics saved my professional life.

How To Sell As An Introvert

But I’m still an introvert. I still produce my most valuable work alone. I sometimes don’t feel completely myself when I’m being social. I’m sure some of you understand that.

Having to be social for more than a couple hours tires me out. “Alone time” recharges me.

I have a small digital marketing agency and I’m the rainmaker. I have to sell. But I’m an introvert.

Most of my life, I felt like a misfit. And doing normal employee-type work was no different. At the average job, I felt like a pretender. Or the rebel high school kid who’s always trying to avoid the principal- in the form of the boss. It wasn’t the right situation for me.

I felt like I would die if I had to do that kind of work forever. I needed my own business to have the freedom in which I would thrive.

I wanted to work freelance. I tried to do that twice and failed. I kept having to get a job because I couldn’t get enough clients.

Then, at my last regular job, I built the inbound marketing department for an agency in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I finally developed the skills and connections to go out on my own.

In fact, they gently pushed me out with a severance. It was what I needed to launch.

The short version of the story is that it worked.

A review of our new clients over the last three years showed us that most of our business comes from people I’ve met at conferences. And much of that relationship-building begins in social media for me. I use digital tactics to sell our services as much as possible before I talk to anyone on the phone or in person.

I don’t like to “sell myself” in person, so it’s harder to meet new people if they don’t know anything about me. Even when it’s a peer conference I’m speaking at, it’s not as easy for me to mingle until after I’ve spoken.

After I’ve spoken, I feel seen and heard. Then I can mingle with confidence.

I use Twitter and Facebook to make contact and build a connection with people before we meet in person. I set up meetings and dinners ahead of time.

If you’re socially phobic and going to a social function, try to make connections with some of them via social networking first. Then show up. [click to tweet]

I’ve met people via mutual friends on Facebook, messaged with them, then chatted on the phone. The phone chat makes you real to them. It’s a solid start to your relationship. It’s much stronger than computer chats are.

I think this is getting better as the years go by. I’ve solidified my reputation through blogging, writing books, speaking, and networking at conferences. There’s less chance I’ll get anxious and retreat into my shell.

My struggle with this surprises people. That’s a testament to the people and organizations that have helped me.

If you’re an introvert and have to sell, use social networking to connect people who could refer business to you. [click to tweet]

And please, if you have any struggles with this, feel free to reach out to me.