This past weekend I had the honor of attending the South by Southwest Conference (abbreviated as SXSW) in Austin, Texas. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the SXSW experience; SXSW is an annual festival highlighting the newest and best in film, media, and music. Just imagine like 150,000 people in downtown Austin running around in polos and cargos conversing about everything tech. The energy at SWSX is exhilarating. I met so many people, learned a lot of new things and most notably, I lost my wallet.
Every night after endless seminars and workshops my friends and I would hit Austin’s notorious “Dirty Sixth Street.” Dirty Sixth Street is a famous entertainment strip of bars and clubs spanning nine blocks. At the majority of the bars, we went to there was no cover charge. Each establishment only wanted to be sure that all of us had valid state ID and that we were over 21. I have never had so much fun bar hopping in my life. We would go from bar to bar enjoying shots of vodka, wings and things. With each bar we would simply show our ID, go in and have a good time. After about five bars later I walked up to another club only to realize my wallet was missing from my pocket. As the bouncer motioned for my ID, I frantically began patting my pockets. I ran back to the last bar I went to only to find that my wallet was nowhere to be found.
Following my frantic search, I caught a Fasten home and returned to my dorm deeply saddened by my loss. I thought, how could I be so careless and reckless to where I would lose my wallet? Of course, I had a flight back to Atlanta in two days; I was still going to need money for food. What was I to do?
The next morning I received a Facebook notification informing me that I had a message request. I accepted the request, and it read, “Hey Chris, I found your wallet on Sixth Street.” The message was an answered prayer. I met with the young woman who found my wallet and retrieved it shortly after. As I went on with my day, I began to reflect on what it was that I could learn from this experience. John C. Maxwell is a role model of mine, and he always says, “sometimes you win and sometimes you learn…. always aim to learn.” So I wondered, “What can I learn from this situation?” Of course, I should be more responsible. Maybe next time I go out I’ll wear a Fannie pack or attach my wallet to my wrist but what else could I learn?
I finally came to the conclusion that the only way this woman was able to find me was because of my strong personal brand and internet presence.
I take pride in my brand and what I put out into the internet. I am proud to say that I am easily found on social networks. I also think that it’s cool that If you type in “Chris Sumlin” on Google the majority of the findings on the first few pages are me. My personal brand is strong and served me well in this instance. I can say with confidence that had I not been active on Facebook with recent updates and photos; I probably wouldn’t have found my wallet.
So often we look at social media as a means of exploiting our privacy or something to merely scroll when we’re bored at work. I’ve come to learn that if you use social media correctly, it can service you in more ways than we realize. It can be used as a tool to share stories that inspire others, build businesses and even assist us when we lose our wallets on Sixth Street.
My advice to anyone reading this piece would be to evaluate how social media can service you. Now, I’m not advocating that you become a Kardashian and inform your following on your every move or even oversaturate news feeds with stories of your cat, Felix. But I am saying that social media is a powerful, effective tool. This tool can be used to connect us all and bring each other together. So ask yourself: What am I putting out into the world through social media? Is what I’m putting out a good reflection of myself and my personal brand? Am I using social media to assist me with my goals?
Everyone’s answers will be different. Some will never see the value in tweeting or Facebooking. I can say for sure that after my experience at SXSW, I know that I’m going to continue to make myself accessible online and strengthen my personal brand. For all of you out there with consulting businesses, recent grads looking for your next job or any entrepreneur looking for your next investment, I hope you do the same.