Do 4,172 people care if you go to lunch?

March 20, 2009

This was the question raised among several of the most intelligent marketers I have had the pleasure to meet. Social networking still has that stigma – it’s for kids, it’s for social stuff, I don’t care what everyone is doing every second of the day.  Fascinating!

I personally cannot tell you the last time I actually read a post where someone told me something I truly did not care about. Perhaps it’s who you are friending or following.  Hmmm…now there’s a thought.  Perhaps you should consider instituting some guidelines around social networking. Have a strategy about how you are using social networking?  Say it isn’t so!!

I try to use my accounts for business purposes. Now, that is not to say that I do not ever say anything personal, or communicate in a personal way with someone online.  I did it when I worked in the “corporate world”. I had work friends and we shared all sorts of things from  personal issues to business challenges to opinions about out latest boss.

Yet, when it becomes part of the Internet, people view it differently. Perhaps it’s because of the sheer number of people who can actually see that information. Or perhaps it’s because they are uncomfortable with the technology. I can certainly understand both those positions. But think about it – how often did you know someone who either was reprimanded at work or worse, fired, because the rumor mill was in full force and somehow that disparaging remark got back to the new boss?  It happens all the time.

Now, I’m not condoning putting everything you are doing on your social networking accounts (see my netiquette blog for some tips). There are some direct posting and messaging options that allow you to state things more privately (much like closing the office door before you gossip about a co-worker). But, just like everything else in life, you need to pay attention to what you are saying, how you are choosing to behave, and remember the repercussions. If you don’t care, hey – then tell everyone everything. It’s your life. But if you do care – if you are one of those people who is insightful enough to realize that you can have repercussions from your actions – then keep your blog posts, social networking information, and even e-mails a little less personal. I don’t mean cold, or even totally professional all the time. Just something a bit less revealing.

Have a strategy

When I decide who to friend, or follow, I look for a common thread. The person has information I’m interested in, they are in an industry I would like to follow, they have a hobby I might want to undertake one day, they are funny, or I’m intrigued by their writing style. I do not simply friend or follow every person that comes along. Not trying to be a snob, but for me it’s not a numbers game.  I’m not interested in having thousands of people on my social networking accounts that I cannot provide some value for, or that are not a fit for me professionally or personally. I don’t need to be the popular kid.

Because I make a point to consider various criteria, I rarely get some crazy post or Tweet telling me about bodily functions, or mostly inane information. I receive a lot of valuable information from my connections, and find them to be interesting people that I would not have had the opportunity to get to know otherwise. Bonus!

If I find aftering following someone that we do not have the level of commonality I prefer, I simply unfriend or unfollow them. It’s not personal. I’m sure they have lots of other cyberfriends who are thrilled to read their posts. And I do not feel bad about it. I’m simply trying to maximize my social networking time, and would understand the situation in reverse. Time is precious, so no reason for someone to continue reading my posts if they are not receiving some benefit from them.

The bottom line is you have to decide how you wish to use social networking. If you want it to be all personal, fine. If you want it for business, then accept that you will have to merge your personal and business, or not ever friend a personal friend. Either way, it’s all good. After all, you really have friends at work, right? It’s fine to be yourself, and have some fun! Just remember to respect other’s time, and that anything you put online can be found.

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