Could Going Social Save Your Life? Benefits of Social Media that You Might Not Think About

David Egger is Lead Marketing Manager for AT&T’s IRU (Individual Responsibility User) Mobility Programs. You can find more blog content from David and other experts on emerging technologies and mobile application on the AT&T Networking Exchange Blog. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

I’ve spent just about my entire life being the fat kid. Numerous crash diets, exercise regimens and scams have been tried over the years from the plausible to the ridiculous. I remember in 9th grade I tried eating nothing but sugar free jello for three weeks. That didn’t work out. In college I tried Atkins, and while I lost a bit of weight, the SAE house with its chicken wings, Marvin’s Garlic Cheeseburgers and school lunch pizza was far from conducive for a strict diet like that. Then I went on the road as an Account Executive for Apple’s Higher Education team, living out of Hampton Inns and on delivered pizza. Suddenly, I was 27 years old and 350 pounds.

I knew it was my fault, I just never had the willpower or motivation to make the real change happen. Everyone has felt this way about one thing or another, whether it’s losing weight, building a new website or mobile app for your business, or just needing to make a load of sales calls.

So there I was, 27, about to finish my MBA and so big that I was pushing the limits of Men’s Wearhouse’s big and tall department. Then I discovered RunKeeper, a mobile app and website that lets you easily track your physical activities. The killer feature? Social integration. I started this round of workouts on my recumbent exercise bike, entering the info manually, but letting RunKeeper post my results to Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly I had a cheering section – all my friends. Every time I broke a new milestone, added time or intensity I was getting some Like’s. Soon the indoor bike gave way to walking – first 2 miles, then 3, 4 and up to 6 miles in one day. The workouts became addictive in a way they never had before. Rather than looking at working out as a punishment, I was excited to go out and beat my past efforts. Getting to talk about reaching a new milestone on Facebook  was my favorite high.

This past Spring I bought a bike, and have been using RunKeeper to create GPS maps of my route including elevation changes and pace. I gradually built from 2 miles per outing to five, ten, finally peaking at 16 miles—enough to meet my next challenge, commuting the 26 miles round trip to the AT&T office in downtown Indianapolis. David Guetta and Daft Punk were blasting in my ears the whole trip, but all I could hear was the epic music of doing something I never thought possible.

Still believe social media is just a passing fad and doesn’t have any real value to your customers?  I’m down 50 pounds in a year and my thighs are rock hard from the bike. I had to get my suits tailored down and bought an XL shirt for the first time since middle school. After nothing else convinced me to get off my rear and do some real exercise and taking care of myself, my social network did – without even realizing just how big of an effect they had. Do you need to motivate your customers to get off their rears?

A big part of a person’s identity and a huge motivation for many of us is approval from our peers. If our peers promote your brand on social media – we know it’s been vetted and approved by someone we approve of. We may not take quite the level of emotional support for your brand as I received from likes on my bike rides, but if you get 10% of the effect, that’s still a big, big change in how people perceive your brand. Making it easy for your customers to share their love for your brand and products is crucial. Promoting you needs to be as easy as it was for my friends to click the like button.

Make your product good enough to be loved, then make it easy for people to tell others how much they love it.

What are your personal stories for how social media has changed your everyday life or given you unexpected motivation?  How are you promoting your products through social media in unique ways?  How could you use social media to change your internal business practices or motivate your employees? Please leave your comments below.