Some Myths and Truths about Social Media and Social Networking

10 01 2011

Social media, social networking, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc. – we know that social media and social networking are very popular, but what is this all about?  Is it all hype?  Is it worth my time?

Let’s look at some of the popular social networking sites – some of the myths and some of the truths:

Facebook: Facebook is definitely a phenomenon, with about 600 million or more “members”, although many do not actively login and use the site frequently.  Some people have a few Friends; others have thousands.  Each of us uses Facebook for different purposes.  Some questions are raised about how some use Facebook:

– What is the value of knowing where someone is having lunch?

– What is the value of knowing that someone is tired, has a headache, is fighting with their spouse, or just having a bad day?

– Why connect with someone with whom I have not had contact in many years?  Why connect with someone I don’t even know?

The myths about Facebook include that it has no real redeeming social value and that it offers little or no protection for personal privacy.

I cannot answer for the multitudes of Facebook users as to their purpose for using Facebook, connecting with thousands of people or in sharing their location or their personal angst.  Regarding sharing one’s angst, I have noticed that their Friends do respond and try and provide comfort, so there appears to be value for those participating in this way.  I have written about privacy and your online legacy, so one should be aware of how their posts will be perceived by their employer or prospective employer if their privacy settings are not “locked down”, and therefore, their posts are “public”.

As for privacy, there are real concerns, and Facebook has seemingly made an effort to address those concerns by adding more options to the privacy settings.  Experienced users have learned how to use Facebook with a controlled circle of connections, they post with discretion, and they “lock down” what is available (and not available) to the general public, both within Facebook and by internet search.

You do not need to throw away the overall value of Facebook because you don’t necessarily find value in all that is posted by others.  You can choose with whom you connect, and you can also hide posts by your Friends without removing them from your circle.  You can also express empathy when they’re not feeling well or having a bad day.  Or you can just ignore their posts.

The value of Facebook includes:

– You can connect with people you know and share in a variety of ways so that you can keep in touch in some manner while maintaining a very busy life.

– You can re-connect with people with whom you’ve lost touch many years ago.

– You can connect with new people who share common interests.

– You can learn about community activities, restaurants, travel destinations, special promotions, news, new businesses, products and services, jobs, etc. from the links that your Friends share.

– You can benefit from the many marketing tools that Facebook offers if you have a business and wish to connect with your marketplace.

For more information about Facebook, please read my blog posts – “Facebook Tips”

Twitter:  Twitter is probably even less understood than Facebook.  The common myths about Twitter are that it is used only by 20-somethings, and for following the daily activities and spewings of celebrities.  While this may have given Twitter a lot of publicity and momentum initially due to the large followings for some celebrities, Twitter is moving more and more into the mainstream of social networking, job search and business marketing.

– Twitter offers the opportunity to follow and learn from experts in fields of interest.

– Twitter offers the opportunity to share one’s area(s) of expertise with others who are interested.

– Twitter provides the opportunity to, therefore, connect with others with whom a connection using other means may not be readily available and possible.

– Twitter provides links to a variety of information sources, and using both internal and external tools, you can sort through the multitude of Tweets to focus on the ones of most interest to you.

As an example, I recently authored a post on the blog about how to use Twitter for a job search (“How to use Twitter for Job Search”).

As with Facebook, do not throw away the potential value that Twitter offers you to learn, share and connect with others in your fields of interest, whether it be for job search, self-education, or overall networking.  You have control – you choose who to follow, you choose what to post (Tweet), and you choose what to share (Re-Tweet).

LinkedIn:  LinkedIn is the most popular business networking site with more than 90 million members (and still growing).  LinkedIn suffers from some different myths including:

– Why would I use LinkedIn if I am not looking for a job?

– Why would I connect with people I don’t know?

– All I need to do is set up a basic profile

LinkedIn is about networking, and although there are some features which are specifically related to job search (including job postings), it is most beneficial to connect with people you know and with people you don’t yet know, with whom you share common connections, common backgrounds, common interests.

One of the great benefits of LinkedIn are the 3 levels of connections, such that you can learn about people who are connected to your direct connections and so on.  The more direct connections you have, the more profiles you can find that match your search criteria, which can be very helpful if you want to learn about an industry, a company, a profession or something else.  My 1295 connections equate to a total LinkedIn network of 9.5 million! (which means that I can find people nearly anywhere in the U.S. or throughout the world)

Another benefit of LinkedIn is the Group.  When you join a LinkedIn Group, you can more easily connect with other Group members, engage in Discussions (learn and share with others), and even learn about job opportunities.

There is a Q&A feature that provides another way to learn and share. Using Q&A, I solved a problem with my website, learned about email marketing programs, and connected with many other LinkedIn members in the job search area, as I shared my expertise.

Whether you are networking or job searching, the more information you share in your profile, the more likely others will not only find you, but reach out to you.

LinkedIn is not intuitive, so it takes time and effort to learn how to derive real benefits, but I can tell you from personal experience that I have connected with a lot of wonderful people, some of whom I knew previously and others whom I did not, I have learned from my LinkedIn connections, and I have gained business through my LinkedIn network.

For more information, please read my posts about LinkedIn – “LinkedIn Tips”, especially the post, “What Does Your LinkedIn Profile Say About You?”

Blogging:  Blogging provides you with the opportunity to learn from others, and to share your thoughts and expertise as well.  Your interests and expertise do not have to be related to your work.  You may have a keen interest or expertise with wine making or tasting, travel, health, etc.  Blogging provides another way to learn, to share, and to connect with others.  Like everything else, blogging takes time, so use your time efficiently.  You do not need to read tons and tons of blogs – find the one(s) that interest you the most.  You do not need to post every day.  Quality is better than quantity.

This is just the tip of the social networking iceberg – there are numerous sites and tools available, and more are being created and offered every day.

To summarize, each social networking site and tool has its challenges and drawbacks, but each offers you benefits that may not be readily apparent, especially at first.  Like I have done with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging and more, I encourage you to explore the ones that interest you, read blogs and articles, and learn the benefits and techniques to utilize the sites effectively.  Also, become knowledgeable about the potential pitfalls and risks so that while you can gain from these sites, you can properly protect yourself as well.  Like anything, social networking involves a lot of time and effort, and what you put into it will often equal what you get out of it, if you use your time and effort effectively.




One response

10 01 2011

Good advice for anybody thinking about marketing themselves or their organizations. What started out as a pastime for college techie geeks to rate women, and which morphed into a minutae-tracker for 20-somethings (“I’m flossing now”), has evolved into a bona-fide marketing tool for business, non-profits and political advocates. The American way.

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