Tagged: career

Nurturing Your Network(s)

originally posted on Concept Hub

The most common question I hear in regards to social media is “how can a person manage all the social networks that they feel they need to be a part of?”

I have two answers. The first answer is technical. It has to do with the 2 things I call “the math equation you have to learn to go any further in Social Media; Syndication and Tagging.”

Syndication is how information is pushed or fed to another site. The most common example is subscribing to an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed which would be fed into an RSS reader such as Google Reader or Bloglines. This allows the subscriber to receive feeds from various sites into one place.

Most sites have RSS. Even Facebook status updates have an RSS feed. This means that you can pull all the information you want to keep up with into one place. Beyond that, there are sites such as Friendfeed.com and Plaxo Pulse which allows you to subscribe to all your “friends” various networks in one place.

Tags are how content is organized on the web. Many sites allow you to subscribe to updates from a specific tag or category. This enables the subscriber to filter just the type of information they want to subscribe to.

However, there is a lot more to consider than just how technology can assist in organizing all of your networks. Before you join a network – or ten and try to figure out how to organize it all, you need to know why you are in those networks in the first place. Who are you trying to connect with and why?

Recently I am getting lots of questions about Twitter. More and more people are joining Twitter, but they do not know why. They are asking me why should they be on Twitter, what value will they get from it? My standard answer, not just for Twitter, but for all social media tools, is it depends on what you want to get from Twitter. Once you know what you are trying to get from a tool or network, then you will know which tool or network will be the most effective, you will know who you want to connect with, and you will know how to get value from your relationships. For example, many PR people are finding Twitter a useful tool to stay in contact with the media. Many others use Twitter to stay connected with friends and family scattered throughout the country or world. Others use Twitter to stay up to date on the latest innovations and trends in their industry. But the reality is, most heavy Twitter users rely on Twitter for all of the above.

The thing about online social networks is they have become an extension of our offline social networks. If we stop and think about our offline relationships we can see how many relationships we have crossed many different networks. We may play a sport with someone we work with or someone in our spiritual center. Our kids may play with the son or daughter of someone that happens to be a client. Our old high school friend may have just landed a job at a company that is a hot prospect. The reality is our offline relationships have very few boundaries, so it is a curious thing to try to impose such boundaries within our online networks.

The other fascinating challenge of online social networks is trying to decide “what to say.” Back to the Twitter example, a network that allows you 140 characters to make your point. How can a relationship be nurtured in only 140 characters, and the question asked more often, why do I care about the random bite-sized thoughts and activities of others?

In our offline worlds, we all have many different personas that we exhibit at various points during the day. We are all multi-dimensional and that is what makes us so captivating. The bite-sized information feeds keeps the conversations going, allowing people in your network to see the various sides of your personality, to find the areas where there are common interests, and to respond, in their own bite-sized information, to you. So, it is important that your online persona is just as multi-faceted and personalized as your offline persona.

But who will care? Again, this goes back to why are you there? You can be on LinkedIn and Plaxo for business, but it will still be OK to have a few friends and family connect with you there as well. You can be on Facebook re-connecting with old friends and stay connected with new friends, but it is perfectly fine to have a few clients connected to you there as well. Imagine how you can strengthen the bond you have with your clients as you learn the little details about them such as their hobbies, interests, favorite music, and so forth. Twitter is much more interesting when you are following your friends but can also keep you ahead of the curve when you need to follow trends or to know where the right place is at the right time.

Finally, no one should feel obligated to stay connected to each network all of the time. You do need to learn what you can do in each community and you do need to spend some time nurturing your networks, but once you have established your presence, you can step away if needed. Recently I confessed to a peer that I am rarely on Twitter anymore. When I need it, I know how to leverage it but right now I do not need to be on Twitter. I explained that just like we do not carry a hammer around with us all of the time, we only have a hammer when we need to use it, we do not need to keep up with every network online.  However, the trick is knowing the right tool or network to be in at the right time in the right way and with the right relationships.

The Technology that Keeps Us Connected

originally posted in Concept Hub

Last year I had the opportunity to be a “career mom” at my son’s school and to speak to 2nd graders about my career.

I struggle explaining what it is I do to adults, how could I explain it to children, and what key point did I want to leave them with?

I brought with me a single envelope. I explained to the children that when I was their age I was taught that if I wanted to express myself to a person within an organization I had to write a letter, put it in an envelop and mail it to them. I would not know if that person received the letter or what resulted from my communication.

When I became an adult the world had moved to email as a prominent form of communication. As I explained email I asked the children to pass the envelope around. Once the envelope had gone halfway through the room I told them to stop passing it around.

Next, I wrote a message on the whiteboard. I asked the children to raise their hands if they touched the envelope, and half the class raised their hands. Then I asked them to raise their hands if they were still holding the envelope, only one child raised their hand. Then I asked who saw me write the message on the whiteboard. Every child raised their hand. Then I asked who still saw the message on the whiteboard. Again, every child raised their hand. I explained that was the power of communications today. Email can be distributed to many but is contained within a siloed channel and is often deleted.  Today communications can be broadcasted to the world and lives on the web. The key point I left them with that the careers they were learning about today may not exist when they are grown up and the careers they end up choosing most likely do not even exist yet. What kids need to learn in school is how to continuously learn.

When email was introduced it was a powerful communications channel that was also considered a disruptive technology. How disruptive was email and the Internet? Consider that ClueTrain Manifesto was written long before we reached the power of social media, and it states:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Each day new technologies are being introduced to the market that are changing the landscape of the conversation. With the rapid introduction of these new technologies that are supposed to make us all more connected we are actually finding that we are still facing the same challenges that we faced when we mailed letters or even when we sent emails. Siloed channels.

If I choose to participate on Twitter I am ignoring the community on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. Our communication channels seem to be more siloed because we simply can not be everywhere all the time and our friends, family, peers, and co-workers may be in a different community than where we are.

However, as I mentioned, every day we are being introduced to new technologies by Entrepreneurs who like to solve problems.

Lately, I have been using Ping.fm “a simple service that makes updating your social networks a snap.”

When I update my “status” my latest update is sent to my Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter community with one click. When/If someone responds I am alerted. This leverages the power of syndication and aggregation to organize the web.

Each community has its own purpose and it’s own culture. However, sometimes our own minds and assumptions are the culprit of creating siloed communities more than the technology. Last week I submitted an update that I had just made the best Cappuccino, a meaningless update I agree, but I was proud of that cappuccino and felt I wanted to express that pride. Such an expression is common on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace, however, I received 5 times more responses to that update from LinkedIn than any other community. Communities change, cultures adapt, and we need to keep our finger on the pulse to stay relevant and interesting.

In my lifetime (which is still fairly young) I have seen a shift from one way and one to many, to two-way and many to many, to what we are already starting to see which is communicating to multiple communities and community to community communications.