Some people maintain that Social Networking has simply brought to the virtual world what we already do successfully in the physical world. Connecting with more people and building meaningful relationships with people we care about. I think that in reality it's quite the opposite. Social Networking tools have given us the ability to build new relationships, and enhance old ones that were until now weighted down by the limitations of the physical world, time and distance.
To support my point, let me just offer a few ways in which our personal and professional lives can truly be enriched by Social Networking, without sacrificing our humanity, personal and family time.
Getting Peer Perspective: On a daily basis we are bombarded by thousands of marketing and advertising messages, while we know that we retain very little of that. When it comes to making purchase decisions we place a lot more value in what our friends and other like-minded individuals tell us based on their first hand experience. I don't know about you, but prior to Twitter and Facebook it was highly unlikely that I would pick up the phone and ask a few hundred of my friends, ONE AT A TIME, whether they bought that flat screen or what restaurant they liked most in the theater district in NYC. Same holds true with my business network. Asking about the pros and cons on a hot new product or service, usually takes an investment in 140 characters on Twitter or less instead of countless hours in phone calls and individual emails!
Networking For Dummies: To some people, networking comes naturally. it's part of their DNA. For the rest of us who have struggled for years to build that anachronism called a rolodex and failed miserably to add more than a dozen ridiculously outdated contacts in it, LinkedIn has come to the rescue in a huge way. Now I am a proud member of the "over-500" club and totally jazzed to realize that I actually remember more than 90% of the people in my LinkedIn network. Even those lost souls in my network whom I struggle to recall, a quick glance at their LinkedIn photo and job history usually triggers a memory and saves the day. Better yet, I get notifications when my contacts change jobs which gives me a great reason to call or email, I see what clubs or groups they belong to which let's me say something semi-intelligent to them in conversation other than "how's business", and I can also find more people I know from past lives just by browsing the list of people connected to my contacts. This is a small world. Inevitably you find people you worked with in some past life, and assuming you did not burn many bridges, you can easily rekindle relationships that would have otherwise stayed dormant for years.
You e-Profile: Whether you like it or not, the web, and social networking tools in particular make it easier for people to find more and more information about us. There's no use getting upset over it. Instead, embrace the new reality and take control (as much as you can) of what is written about you on the web. Social Networking profiles, given the networks' sheer size and influence, show up on top of the search engine results when someone searches out your name. What better way to tell the world exactly what they should know about you. Share the information you want people to know and create as many social networking profiles as you can manage. At the very minimum, join the big 3 (FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and get busy creating the profile that you want people to see. One of the lesser known but hugely influential public directories is called Google Profile. As you can imagine, your Google Profile, exactly as you develop it, shows up on the first page of every Google search with your name in the search parameters. Unless you have a few hundred thousand dollars to spare in advertising, this is a free, no-brainer alternative to get on the first page of a Google search, with information that you actually WANT people to see.
Staying In Touch is NOT Hard To Do: I know you hate to admit it, but if you are on Facebook already, you are spending at least a half hour each day checking on your friends to see what they are up to, sharing pictures of the world's cutest kids (yours), and checking out the family photos of a person you work with just because you are curious to find out if that person you've been working with all these years actually has a life outside of the office! It's a well known fact that people do business with people they like. Facebook allows you to show the kind of person you are in "real life" which in turn can not only lead to new friendships but can also lead to better business relationships. Once you've seen pictures of your boss playing with their kids or hanging out with their friends at a party you tend to see them more as a person and less as a "suit" which can lead to fewer walls between you and a closer working relationship.
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