08/20/2012 01:25 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

Using Social Media For Business Networking

We used to call it friendship.

When I was sixteen years old, my family moved from sunny Southern California to a small town in Indiana with only three weeks remaining of my junior year in high school. To say I was scared or nervous would be an understatement. I was unprepared for what the Midwest had to offer me, a sixteen-year old California. My family lived at the local Holiday Inn for the first few weeks while we waited for our furniture to arrive. That first weekend in LaPorte, Ind., conjured a new-found shyness in me as I had left behind a boy I really liked and all my friends; I doubted the little, convertible Fiat I so loved to drive would be much fun once Indiana turned into the frozen tundra we heard so many stories about.

I sat by the hotel swimming pool feeling sorry for myself, wondering how I would ever fit in - -on the brink of hating my parents. I didn't even own a pair of jeans, and it seemed like that was all anyone wore in this farming community. As I sunk into the hot tub, a group of high school boys, not from my new school, invaded the pool area. They were a golf team from a high school further south and were in the area for a golf invitational. One of the boys was a tall redhead with outstanding freckles. His smile lit up that gloomy hot tub as his slipped into the bubbling water. He looked at me, I looked blankly back at him and with my braces sparkling, I managed a weak smile. He moved around closer to me and struck up a conversation. I conveyed my pitiful story to which he intently listened and added his own commentary here and there. We became fast friends and before he left, he gave me his student ID card, vowing I would have no problem fitting in and not to worry. I never saw him again, though I knew I would not forgot his kindness or his name, ever.

That was over thirty years ago.

I have often wondered about that boy and how his life turned out. He wasn't right about everything, but he made me feel better about my efforts to fit in.

A few years ago, after years of becoming completely entrenched in social media, I decided to do a Google and LinkedIn search. I knew his name, that he went to high school somewhere in Indiana, that he most likely went to college in Indiana, and that he was a golfer. I immediately found him on LinkedIn and sent him an InMail with a message which started out, "I am not sure if you remember me but we met in a pool in LaPorte, Ind., almost thirty years ago... " To my surprise, he replied with, "Of course, I remember you... " and we quickly scheduled a call to try and catch up.

It was great to talk and share how our paths had twisted and turned over the last thirty years. Actually, it was quite surreal. This time, I left our conversation with his virtual business card, instead of his student ID. He owns and runs a company, Peacock Promotions, in the Northern Midwest and has since been a key vendor for my company's promotional materials/products; I, in turn, coached him a bit on how to use social/new media to further promote his business.

A contact I made thirty-two years ago is now a business associate and friend; this was made possible through social media.

People like to do business with people they know.

People also like to do business with people they trust. Pretty basic business truths. Social media allows for this. Learning about potential clients, vendors, or partners by reviewing online profiles, turns what could have been an extremely cold call into a warm one. Side perk: It also assists in re-connecting with folks we haven't seen or heard from in years. I now have a trusted supplier in my contact list who I know has my best interest at heart and works hard to make sure my company gets the best service and products at a decent price.

Would this reunion of sorts have been possible without social media? Not without the help of a private detective, for I only knew his name, state in which he went to school, and a sport he played. His advice has been priceless as has the business relationship we have developed.

Doing business doesn't get much better than that.