Social MediaSocial media and online community involvement and collaboration is not a fad, it’s the future.  As Don Tapscott might put it, the Net Generation get’s it, uses it, and is going to change the way web technology is used and perceived.  Even better, social media tools are expanding and getting the online communities to meet offline, as many users are meeting in person to discuss issues, news, entertainment, work, partnerships, you name it.

I began using Facebook in February 09’ and Twitter in December 09’.  Used Linked-In since 2008, not sure exactly when.  Ya, I used MySpace back in the day but it doesn’t seem relevant anymore.  Until the spring of 2011 I’m serving as communications officer for the CA Clarity Global Community and I tend to use CA.com forums and community content frequently but am also interested in many other technology and collaboration based sites and communities.  At a recent CA World discussion group, I was lucky enough to be on stage with four others talking about social media, the impact of it, and why we all use it and like it.  It was staggering to me how many people don’t use Twitter when I see adoption rates are sky high and ever increasing.  The more time I spend in the social media realm, the more I realized I would need a personal strategy on how I use each tool which ultimately impacts how I brand myself.  I can’t take all the credit really, since I first saw my pal, Josh Shear, with a write-up on his blog on how he uses social media.  I feel it’s important to step back and think about your own goals and objectives in using a social media or collaboration based application.  Your own strategy is a living, breathing thing that you should most likely revisit annually as your interests, habits, and even role and responsibilities change.

Twitter:

By far, my most frequently used social app.  As Twitter grows, I feel it is the app that will replace email or at least take away a ton of email traffic due to the simplicity of the tool and the volume of users.  Primarily, I use Twitter to learn and stay current on industry news and local events.  I mix up many of my posts with personal tidbits as well as professional one.  With Twitter I apply fewer rules for myself but am careful about how my tweets are perceived.  I use the hashtag, #in, to synch certain tweets to my LinkedIn account which I find helpful from a professional standpoint.  Problem is, once you do that, your professional contacts know you use Twitter and may follow you, giving them read access to all of your Twitter activity.  You can put a lock on your Twitter account and approve your followers, but to me, that defeats the primary purpose of Twitter.  My strategy here is: This is who I am, this is what interests me, and I follow who and what I’m interested in.  Tweet while you’re at work in limited fashion, unless it’s part of your job.  Lastly, following people and organizations local to you is a great way to break out of your ‘online-only’ shell and connect with some real people.  You can also learn about what events are occurring in your neighborhood.

Linked-In:

Ahh, the online resume of choice.  Linked-In took me a while to understand, yes, dumb I know.  My caution with this app was who do I connect with and why?  If it’s an online resume and professional networking tool, why link to friends and family?  You shouldn’t…  unless they are also professionally connected.  Now, I have a few rare exceptions to that rule, but the majority of the time, I eat my own dog food.  My strategy here is: Build and maintain an online resume, connect with industry peers, connect with select co-workers, share professional thoughts.  Why link to your current boss or co-workers?  This one is tough as I agree with two sides of the fence.  For one, if you work with them every day, why do you need to link with them online to communicate and collaborate?  You’re most likely already doing that within your organization, if not, you should be.  Two, taking the no fear approach and connecting to your closest team members sends a different message.  It says you’re not afraid that they know who you are, where you come from, what’s on your mind, what activities or groups you’re involved in, what you’re doing, etc.. This ultimately leaves you responsible and accountable for your online actions and how you represent yourself and your employer.  Accountability is the buzz word for me because I don’t think there’s enough of it in today’s corporate or enterprise environment.  Using Linked-In and Twitter together can really help you build a professional network.  I’ll end on a pet peeve though.  If you’re going to signup for LinkedIn, use it.  Many people create an account and login once every six months.  If you do that, you’re not doing yourself or your connections any favors.  Also, I suggest you maintain and update your LinkedIn account regularly.  If they day comes and you lose your job, with an updated profile, you’re one step ahead of everyone else.

Facebook:

The largest social network in the world today and really, I’m not a big fan.  I’m not a big fan of Facebook given their history on selling customer data and lack of privacy concerns.  I opened an account a while back but ended up deleting it, since then, I realized that there are specific family and friends I want to stay in touch with and they all use Facebook.  I’m at Facebook’s mercy because it’s the easiest way to share family information.  Facebook is a great way to share stories of your kids, pets, hobbies, or whatever you have or love.  To keep this one simple, my strategy here is: Share my personal life with family, let them know I have a blog, band, career, children, etc.  Keep them informed of my life.  You’d be surprised how many people miss you as you grow older.  I think many people are like me where they either move away or are consumed with their own immediate family and responsibilities that they let their close friends and family fall by the wayside.  I may ‘friend’ close friends, but under limited circumstances.  Initially, I let Facebook get out of control and I was friending people I hadn’t seen in 10-20 years.  I was bombarded with news of all of the game-playing they were doing and not real life wall posts.   Another thing that killed me is I would remove friends and they would continue to ask me to be friends again… they didn’t get the point the first time I guess.  One recommendation I do have is not to turn it into a photo gallery of hundreds of photos.  I say, keep your Facebook wall relatively clean, delete old data, and keep your photo albums up to date and limited.  For all the youngsters out there, I’m not sure Facebook is the place you have your social/party club/girlfriends/boyfriends, etc. unless you’re going to keep your family off your friends list.  How you use social media personally is crucial.  Each app for the most part, should be tailored on how you want to use it.  I guess the friends part is tough because I’m the eldest of the Net generation and I don’t have a need for that level of social activity.  My needs are really family driven.  If you’re in your teens and twenties though and want to enjoy a rich ‘social’ experience, just use caution.  Maybe create multiple accounts.

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