Friday, January 29, 2010

Social Media: A Beginners Guide

A personal look at social networking

You are a business executive and have a well establish network of friends, colleagues and associates. Do you really need to engage with online social networks like like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, digg, to name just a few?

I've been experimenting with social networks for the last 18 months, and can say that business professionals should absolutely take advantage of immediacy and network building capabilities of social media. Do you need to run your life around these networks? Absolutely not.

Why use social networks?
Social networks allows us to connect and communicate with all of the people in our network much faster and efficiently that we could have in the past.  These networks also allow you to easily create connections by searching through friends-of-friends-of-friends to find long-lost acquaintances or new people with common interests. Depending on the network, you may also be able to connect with or follow the luminaries and thought leaders in any areas of interest regardless of whether or not you have a personal connection.

The purpose of networking is to market your business, find prospects, land jobs, learn something new, solve problems or develop personal friendships. Social media provides one more source of connections in additional to traditional venues like conferences, professional associations, career fairs, cocktail parties, and trade shows.

Like all forms of networking, effective online social networking is all about meeting people, exchanging information and figuring out if you can help each other out.

In order to be an effective social networker, you need to understand your target networks and have a communication strategy.

How should I use social networks?
If you ask a dozen people about how they use social networks, you are like to get a dozen different answers. Some will say that they only use it to broadcast marketing messages and PR. Others will use it only for personal communications with friends. While others will only use it for gathering information. The bottom line is that social networks are a very flexible medium. They are what you make of them.

That being said, you will be best served if you use the medium with a purpose. If you are using it for everything than you are using it for nothing. This brings me to my next point.

What are the differences between social networks and what communication strategies should I use?
With the interoperability of messaging between different social networks, it is very easy to post an update on Twitter and have that message automatically posted to your LinkedIn and Facebook status.

Just because you can do this, should you? Probably not. Your high school and college friends on Facebook don't want to be spammed with messages about your business activities. Just as your business associates don't wanted to be spammed with messages about the quality of the food at the new sushi restaurant you went to on Friday night.

Personally, I use each social network for a different purpose. I use LinkedIn to maintain business connections, to research companies and contacts, and to recruit new employees.

I use Facebook mainly for personal relationships. To the extent that I have FB friends who are colleagues, I restrict what they can see about me and I never post anything that I wouldn't want my boss or my mom to read. By the same virtue, FB also allows you to see into to the lives of colleagues to a much greater extent that normal office interactions would typically provide. In those cases, you need to respect the privacy of your workmates and be careful not to bring what you see on Facebook back into the office or become overly friendly on Facebook.

I use Twitter in four distinct ways:
  • To scan for breaking news. All of the major news organizations use twitter to send out links to their top stories and breaking news. I also follow thought leaders, experts and bloggers in my industry.
  • To research specific topics by search for what people are saying and what information sources they're linking to
  • To develop relationships with a community of people who care about the same things that I do
  • To let that community know what I'm doing and thinking, and share ideas and links that matter
Twitter isn't the only place to go to for the first two items, but it's one of the first that I go to.

The “Must-Have” Tool Kit of Social Media Citizen
Twitter Power Tips Part 1
Twitter Power Tips Part 2
Social Media Today -- A site dedicated to following, thinking about and discussing social media
Etiquette for the Social Networking Age -- Knowledge@Wharton article highlighting how the personas we share with family, friends and colleagues can blur on social networks
How to Drive Traffic with Twitter

And remember, if you maintain a professional tone throughout, there are very few social networking faux pas that can't be corrected.

So, jump into social networking and have fun.

1 comment:

Kenneth Hong said...

Recent article on the difference between social networks that focus on "the stream" as a media form, and where the future of the the stream wars may be going.

Building a Social Network in a Facebook and Twitter World via @paidcontent