Tag Archives: social networking

The continuum of social media

A friend was complaining today that he didn't get Facebook. I mentioned that I didn't either.  That's not actually true.  I do get it; it just serves a different purpose than twitter.  Or LinkedIn.  So I thought that I would write a bit about how I see all of these pieces fitting together.

Twitter is truly emerging as a business tool.  And a political tool.   And social as well, of course.  But for business, it offers a great opportunity to engage your customers (and they, you) in a conversation.  Of 140 characters or less.  So, sure, it's not a meaningful long-lasting relationship conversation. But it's an interaction that you probably weren't having otherwise, so it's a good converation.  It's fleeting.  You "tweet" something and it's out there.  Then it's gone (except for the fact that the web has a long memory.  But for the most part it's fleeting.  It's difficult to carry on a conversation over time, particularly between more than 2 people.  Oh, and it's pretty open.  By default, your updates are available to the world at large. Sure, you can secure them, but then you lose a bit of the charm of twitter (the rapid web-like growth from friends and from sharing a common interest).  So, in short, twitter offers you a way to meet people through friends of friends (and through following threads of interest).  This is extreme networking, and quite effective.

Facebook fits a different need.  It's not open, by default.  You choose your friends, approve them.  With that, in my mind, comes responsibility.  I have to choose who I want to include and who I want to exclude. From a business standpoint, a personal facebook account can collide in an awkward way with your business interests.  Facebook is just that … personal.  People post photos of their families, and their high school friends connect with them.  It can be a bit awkward to have people 20+ years in your past posting side-by-side with your business associates.  I'm reminded of the friend who happily left a family nickname behind when he went to college.  Finally he was free.  Until some high school friends went to visit him at college and unwittingly revealed the decades-old nickname that he had been so happy to shed.  Ugh. 

What Facebook does nicely is promote events to your friends.  When one of them signs up for an event through Facebook, others learn about the event (presuming that they may have similar interests).  That's compelling, but for me, the awkwardness remains.  Facebook is adding some controls to allow you to partition updates to different people.  No matter.  I use Facebook for what I see as its strengths: communicating with friends. So while I see twitter as a way to meet new people and carry on very casual conversations with people I may or may not already know but share an interest, I see Facebook as a way to carry on a longer, more persistent conversation with people I already know (or used to, way back when).  I won't likely meet new people through Facebook, unless we happen to join the same "group",  But even so, I'm probably not going to carry on much of a conversation with them,

So where does LinkedIn fit it?  Good question.  LinkedIn is a referral network.  While they too seem to want to support group-based conversations, I don't see many people using it that way.  You don't "hang out" on LinkedIn like you might on Facebook and probably do on twitter.  You go there to see if you can get an introduction to someone, or to find someone with a particular area of expertise.

So, I see all of these as useful social media tools.  They really do just fit different needs. And I like it that way. 


So follow me: dmarsh on twitter.  But please don't feel offended if I don't add you as a friend on facebook.  It really isn't anything personal. I just don't spend much time there, and I don't particularly want to be reminded of my awkward teenage years.  My adult years are awkward enough!

Social Networking for Professionals

Virtual Reciprocity Ring: web based tool for social networking in business

This morning, I attended a seminar for the Virtual Reciprocity Ring, associated with the Ann Arbor ITZone. It’s an interesting concept, borne out of the social networking movement and research by Dr. Wayne Baker at the University of Michigan. The seminar started with a presentation to explain the aspects of this web-based tool for social networking as it applies to professionals. The idea is to build weak links to a number of people with whom you have a common interest. In this case, it’s a business interest, and you build the relationships and trust, and start interacting within the community.

I’ve been to many networking events at the ITZone, but I have to say that I have never been to one as effective as this, mainly because we could solicit ideas, opinions, job candidates, etc. using the web-based tool, instead of the “cocktail party” approach, where you feel like you’re saying the same thing to everyone, but probably forgot to say it to the one person who could have helped you (or you missed talking to that person altogether). It’s all about fostering relationships.

I have seen this same sort of social networking in play in the physical world. I’ve attended conferences, where relationships were formed, and later continued via email. The tool that was presented at the conference today formalizes that a bit. Instead of having an email group, communication is done via the ring, where communications center around requests for help and offers of assistance. Most of the people that I communicated with today were people whom I still have not met. A few people, to whom I offered contributions (often meaning simply advice), came up and introduced themselves following the seminar.

This sort of computer-based communication is pretty effective for computer geeks (not surprisingly). We don’t even have to TALK. We can just communicate via the computer! Not altogether sure that’s good for our growth as communicators, but at least stuff gets done!

I like it. I think that this specific tool needs some refinement (opinions were solicited toward that at this seminar as well). I think that it could be effectively used in a lot of situations that I come into contact with (computer user groups, etc.), but I fear that the cost will be prohibitive. I think that the effectiveness of social networking tools like MySpace is due to the fact that they are free and widely available. By limiting the use of such a product to those who “pay to play”, I feel that the community won’t benefit as much as it could have. But this isn’t at all a MySpace equivalent. It’s an invite-only group, with stated objectives of sharing ideas, services, etc. and paying it forward.

The real key, of course, will be to see if people continue to participate past the few hour session this morning.

The Reciprocity Ring Website
Check it out yourself