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Social Networking…So What?

June 12, 2009

I lead a team that sells collaboration and social networking solutions to businesses large and small.  Because we sell these tools, we personally tend to be “early adopters” of most new social related technologies that hit the streets.  Many still believe that this phenomenon will always be  just the toys of a younger generation.   However, I want to provide a different perspective on tools like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.

LinkedIn was the first social networking tool that I began utilizing and the one that I could quickly and clearly see the benefit.  This creates a strong business network and allows you to connect with others who have similar business or education related interests.  I have searched for and found new hire candidates using LinkedIn.  This is clearly a business focused tool and I see tangible value in being an active user.

I wasn’t as quickly convinced with Facebook which is much more of a purely social tool.   The issue is that I have ended up with work friends, personal friends and relatives (of all ages) as friends on my Facebook page.   Maybe Facebook is looking at ways to segregate your friends, relatives and work associates into different groups but for now, this is too much mixed company.  I love my (college age) nieces, but I don’t necessarily want my work associates knowing what they did last night with their friends!  The big benefit that I do see is I am now connected with, not only friends and relatives that I wouldn’t have stayed in touch with otherwise, but also with a whole bunch of Dygert’s that I didn’t even know existed.

Finally Twitter, the latest social networking craze.  Many people think this is the “what I had for lunch” (and how can this possibly be interesting) blogging service.  Twitter is referred to as microblogging which limits you to 140 characters (truth is 140 was picked due to the limitations of text messaging).  I am currently following many work associates, and between the now and then “lunch” tweets, there are beneficial insights to be had.  For instance, in our ever growing virtual work world, this allows us to at least feel like we’re not miles or cities apart.   Also, people can quickly share findings, insights or customer interactions on Twitter via a phone or blackberry and not have to worry about remembering to send it out via email later.  And although the “what I had for lunch” part isn’t that important, the part about having lunch with one of our most important customers is (it’s hard to keep track of 12 sales and 7 tech reps across 6 states!).  Finally, the search capabilities within Twitter allows unique and unprecedented access to the thoughts and minds of thousands of consumers.  We have been able to pick up random (but valuable) chatter on our products that we never would have been privy to otherwise.

There are many other great tools that help expand our social reach like RSS/Atom Feeds, Del.icio.us, AddThis, and others that really help us to effectively stay connected and share (too much to cover in detail in this post, but worth a mention).   It’s funny, there is one tool I haven’t mentioned, good old email.  As amazing as it seems, to our current 16 to 29 year old technology savvy youth movement, email is just about as “old school” to them as compact disks have become.  They are all about MP3 downloads and  real time and rich communication that email just doesn’t provide.

So, if you’re just an active email user, you’re just not hip to the times.  I suspect that email as we know it will be drastically different in just 5 years.  In the end, I am a believer of today’s social networking world but it is somewhat like the “Wild West” right now.  Eventually these tools will adapt and evolve to become an intergral part of most of our lives.   Go ahead, join the revolution and reach out to an old friend or relative and say hi, it will make you feel better, I promise.  I will continue to use and experiment with the social networking movement until I decide that I really just want to be left alone……..and oh by the way, I had turkey and swiss on wheat for lunch!

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