That’s what I do when I get an email from someone i want to connect with but it’s the wrong medium. I have to then decide if i want to let a NYT writer into Facebook where he’s only going to get pics of my kids, (and thereby find me incredibly boring!) or to say Yes to someone on a Linked In request after a conference talk where i couldn’t possibly refer them or ask them to pass along a request. And i hate to not friend someone (who wants to do that?) but ignoring a friend request seems even worse.
So it got me thinking about how I define and use each social network. I hope that by sharing this with others would help me shape my own thinking in the “best approach” for all of this. What is the way to help actually create more meaningful connection?
There are 3 primary social tools i use: twitter, facebook and linked in. i used to blog but given all the writing i’ve done of late (The New How book: http://bit.ly/1312zY), blogging took on a different priority for the last year.
Facebook has become the site for friends who already know me, my dorky life stories, family situation etc. They are largely buds from church, or high school, Vistage, or other offline communities where the intermittent updates are really just a way of staying in touch until the next time we see each other. That let’s us jump into conversations. Rather than say “how are you”, we start talking about a recent trip to Yosemite, some backpacking adventure, recent outings to San Francisco, etc. It does for me in my social construct what blogging used to do for me in business, which is to focus on content between people and thus enriching connection. I think about who I become facebook friends with as the people who have come to dinner or i would easily invite them to our home for dinner. Which is to say, they might experience what my life is really like — dirty dishes, piles of NYT that i have read but still want to read again, rose clippings on the kitchen counter and so on. This is not my professional side. Frankly, my church buds don’t care if i am hot shit at a conference, they want to see if my husband, son and i are having fun. I certainly have some work people in that crowd of facebook friends b/c life is like that. There are people i work with or have worked with that have become friends. This is my life social network. which is to say it limits professional stuff, but it is certainly not the emphasis. Rule: “Dinner at the house” applies.
And then there’s Linked In. Which is a big rolodex in the sky of people i know and could name in a crowd. i frankly think Linked In could do a lot better of letting me code whether someone is personal/business/ or some other combinations. I wish they would let me enter where/when i met them so i could have some way of retracing a connection. But alas, fixing LinkedIn is not the point of this post. While i have a personal database, i often want to find a good marketing person for a CEO and i use the search feature to search amongst people i already know to recall who might be good. Yes, this does suggest my brain synapses are not as strong as I’d like. But at this point in my career, i can forget someone i loved to work with 2 years ago because i’ve met another few hundred people like them in between. This is my way of simply jogging my memory. I know a lot of people who add everyone who asks to their Linked In list but i couldn’t imagine that. I use Linked In to largely help people get jobs/find people. And so i need to know who i know that would be a good match to them. It’s a good tool for that (and not much else but i’m still restraining myself). So even if someone saw me at a conference, i won’t add them b/c i can’t speak to their capabilties and likely won’t be of much use to them either. “Spot you in a crowd” rule applies to this one.
And then there’s twitter. Twitter is an interesting medium which most people know i love. it lets you follow points of interest, build an RSS feed that allows for serendipity, and certainly lets you spread ideas that you think matter. I follow people mostly in my professional context. I could follow fashion or quilting or whatever but i don’t. Just cause that would dilute my main focus which is about connecting with people to solve tough problems, learn more about emerging trends that matter, and certainly to share my pov that we’ve got to get flatter organizations so we can respect the ideas from everyone in the organization and so we close the AirSandwich between the top and bottom of an organization that causes value to get leaked. I used to curate to a 300# meaning, i wouldn’t follow more than 300, but i just bumped that number up to 400 cause i was dropping people just to meet an artificial constraint. Of course, i let anyone follow me. Well, not the crazy porn sites which just offend my sensibilities but other than that, everyone’s fair game. i write back to most replies and maintain a conversation. I’ve met some amazing people through that medium (@sarahm, @suemarks are good examples!) and I’ve learned A LOT. It’s a game of serendipity because you never know what you’re going to get (oh, wait, that’s a box of chocolates) but i like that. I find it fun to checkin and see what people are doing. You may not find it interesting that @eugenelee was catching a flight, was late, etc but the next time i talked with @eugenelee, i had a sense of that day and his life in a way that i couldn’t have. I also know more about gov 2.0 then i would have if i didn’t follow @timoreilly. i follow him for technology trends/ideas that matter and yet he has this other evolving passion and so i am sucked along for that ride to learn/grow/see his pov. It’s an interesting platform for learning, sharing and building community. I’m grateful for it. So the “do you have something interesting to say that isn’t pitching me to buy” rule applies to Twitter.
Okay, back at ya, how do you use your social network usages? Do you have any rules of thumb that help you know who to let in and why? and any ideas to share?