Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How I got started on Social Networking (MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook edition)

Though I am a lifelong Introvert, I have always been social.

I spent several years in policework, where no matter how much you didn't want to, you always had to talk to people -- usually about some pretty personal matters.

It was kind of like being in customer service for a funeral director. No one ever wanted us around unless something really bad happened to them, and it was clear that we better not screw up while we were invading their space.

After I retired from policework, I spent some time in sales -- mostly sales of services. I had to describe something that someone else would deliver at a yet-to-be-determined, likely inconvenient, time in the future. That's a really intangible thing to do, 'cause if you cannot say when it will show up and you can't describe it well you cannot tell when it works. Fortunately, you ALWAYS know when it doesn't. The unknowns, of course, made it fun, and I found it very enjoyable.

In both policework and sales, I realized, perhaps intuitively, that making connections with others was the way to "do business." I ultimately enjoyed meeting new people, and often kept in contact with people I had met, especially if we had a few things in common. So how'd I get into online social networking?

Here's a brief history of my experiences, in the context of three sites: MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook. There are others, and there are others I have joined, but these are the "big three," though not necessarily in the order listed.

I am the father of teenagers - two teenage boys, to be precise. As teenagers, they have to be involved in things their friends are involved in. As it turned out, their friends were involved in MySpace. Both my kids (in their early teens at the time) swallowed their integrity and alleged that they were old enough to sign up (this is reminiscent of someone copying a video tape or disk that has the FBI warning at the beginning).

After I discovered (refer back to the police training) that the only way to see their MySpace account was to be their friend, I decided to be friends with my kids. My older son was instantly impressed when he found out -- I think I got some cool points, at least initially. He received my friend "request" and said, "Hey dad, you got a MySpace . . . COOL!" On reflection, I think that this was the only time he ever thought so. Shortly after gaining access to his site, I "recommended" that he remove my home phone number and my address from his site. I then suggested that he review the site and remove anything that would cause his mother to blush. I've done this a couple of times since, but there are fewer and fewer problems.

My younger son witnessed this interaction and questioned the logic of adding his dad as a "friend." After a couple of days during which I waited patiently for him to add me, he casually asked what would happen if he chose not to. I just as casually responded that I would honor his decision by banning him from the MySpace community. He added me shortly thereafter.

My Entrepreneur side kicked in when a colleague invited me to join the LinkedIn network. I started out copying and pasting the "about me" stuff from my MySpace profile, but quickly realized it wasn't the same type of forum. MySpace was all "social," while LinkedIn was all about "networking," I saw the power of LinkedIn for business purposes, and began tuning and re-tuning my profile. Adding contacts became a hobby, and when the LinkedIn Answers section opened up, I realized I had found a niche.

I've noticed that only a portion of those with whom I would otherwise be connected are actually on LinkedIn. For them, I still have to make time to email or call them to get an update on their professional accomplishments. For the rest of us, there's LinkedIn. Maybe it's because LinkedIn hasn't been around more than a few years. Perhaps it's because no one has invited them. I'm not sure why it is, but I have connections all over the place, and a rapidly growing network.

I have been a college professor off-and-on for several years. When I started doing so on a fulltime basis, I realized that most of my students had a Facebook account. I realized that if I wanted to genuinely connect with my students, I needed to add another social network site to my repertoire. As before, I started out copying the stuff from my MySpace profile, but saw subtle differences in the atmosphere at Facebook. While MySpace was more bells and whistles, Facebook was more words and pictures. It just seemed more "cultured" than MySpace.

In any event, just about all of the students in my classes had accounts, and I had a couple dozen friends within a few days of mentioning that I had an account. I made a point not to send out friend requests because I didn't want there to be any perception of "pressure" or "favoritism." For the most part, I have maintained that philosophy, but have shifted strategies a little in favor of LinkedIn and network building.

There's something about Facebook. Like the other sites, it gives you a chance to catch up on the developments in the lives or your friends and other acquaintences. It also gives you a unique (more transparent) perspective on people with whom you have only corresponded via email, phone call, or other form of message transference. There are some who have a little difficulty accepting this (see my previous post titled "Get over it").

So there it is - a brief history of my adventure into the social networking scene. I have some overlap in my networks, but for the most part they are three separate areas. I'm not sure why there isn't more interconnectivity . . .

What do you think?

No comments: