Let’s travel back to 2004. I believe I was part of a website called “Clubzone.” I don’t quite remember the purpose, but anyways there were discussion boards for random topics and nightlife updates, etc. My recollection of this year is rather vague – for many reasons ;) – but I do recall chatting with stranger boys online and then meeting them in person at SAIT Residence. The young and naive… sigh, I would never do that now. Anyways, good came of it – one of the guys we met has now been in a relationship with one of my best friends, Melissa, for the last 6 years.
Social networking and the availability of information has changed immensely over the last 10 years. I have recently ran into a few situations where I have been asked to meet someone I have an ‘internet relationship’ with in person, asked to attend a ‘tweetup’ and been internet stalked. I’ve been thinking about this concept of ‘internet friends’ and whether or not we, as users, should be capitalizing on the potential opportunity from the internet by shifting these relationships to ‘real life’.
Anyways, lets review some stats and history…
LinkedIn went live in May 2003. Did you know it has been around that long? I sure didn’t! I truly love LinkedIn. It is the 2010 version of the rolodex. Currently I have 286 connections and 16 recommendations. I’m proud to have each and every one of those connections in my network. It has it’s downsides for sure… people may lie about what they do or their accomplishments or give false recommendations, but what manager in their right mind would rely solely on a LinkedIn profile anyways. I sure wouldn’t… all information needs to be verified. LinkedIn has offered me opportunity after opportunity, whether it be a job offer, keeping up to date on your colleagues careers, opportunities for informational interviews, or recommendations. I feel it is extremely underutilized in today’s workforce and a lot of people don’t know how to use it in the correct way.
Facebook was launched in February 2004. Today we have more than 500 million active users. I tried to use Archived Book to review my Facebook history, but no success. Unless you want to scroll through every entry on your wall, finding out your history is next to impossible. I have no idea when I joined Facebook, but imagine it was early 2006. The first photo was tagged of me on July 15, 2006. On February 4, 2007, I shared my first link… the Evolution of Dance. :) Now about 4.5 years later, my Facebook account: 1927 tagged photos, 12 tagged videos, 11 tagged notes, 124 photo albums, 24 videos, 73 notes, and 631 friends. :S
In March 2006, Twitter was founded. I officially joined February 16, 2009, but didn’t become active until that later that Fall. Now I am following 500, listed by 76, and have 948 wonderful, super awesome ;) followers. I have sent 7334 tweets in less than year. A world of opportunity exists on Twitter and so few people are engaging in it!
So what does this all mean? Everyone should be on social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… the works. From a business standpoint, if you’re not on it, you’re behind. If you’re still unsure, read up on Gary Vaynerchuck or check him out on Twitter. From a personal standpoint, it’s truly a decision you have to make for yourself. If you’re in any marketing or communications facing role, you need to get up to speed. Branding is a word that so many people hate… but I am a strong believer that personal branding matters. You need to be online to manage your reputation.
My social networking mantra (no I don’t chant it :P)…
LinkedIn is for colleagues.
Facebook is for friends.
Twitter is for anyone (aka the land of no control).
I purely use LinkedIn for business purposes. If I’ve met you at a networking event or a conference, chances are I will add you on LinkedIn quicker than you can add me. If you don’t have an account… sigh, I will email you to follow up – but seriously, that’s so time consuming. :P I am hesitant on adding a ‘connection’ when I’ve never met you (yes I’ve added a few…). I value my network and strive to maintain a professional trust-based network. Right now, I have 16 invites that I am unsure about… Why? I’ve never met them. Most work in Calgary, but I still have no idea why they added me? Because we share a common group? Who cares? They’ve given me no explanation as to why we should be connections. The point > quality over quantity.
Until just recently I’ve never added anyone on Facebook who isn’t a friend. If I have not seen you in years or don’t know you very well, I will put you on ‘Limited Profile.’ I would suspect that the majority of my ‘friends’ are on limited. Why? Because on limited you can’t see any of my pictures (whether that be profile pictures, tagged photos, or photo albums) and seriously anyone can right-click-save-to-desktop these days. I’d like to believe everyone is ethical and generally nice people, but that’s sometimes not the case and we all need to look out for ourselves. My Facebook profile has been locked down for years, but we all know how privacy settings work and how Facebook (the company) controls everything, so who knows what could happen in the future. If for some reason, something on my profile was sent to my boss, c’est la vie. All of my social media channels are me in a nutshell. No secrets, no surprises. Yes I drink wine, go to the bar, spend vacation on the beach in a bikini, and have unproductive days – but who doesn’t?
Twitter… ahh Twitter. Alright so tweeting is still new to me. Yes I feel like I have a firm grasp of Twitter etiquette, but daily things that happen on Twitter perplex me. Why do people have 2 hour conversations with each other on their feeds? Why do men try to pick up women on Twitter? Why do people trash-talk their bosses and organizations? Sometimes, I just don’t get it. There are no real rules on Twitter, if you’re not a fan of someone, unfollow them. I love Twitter… likely more than any other channel I’m on. Why? Twitter has given me an opportunity to continually learn over a medium that works well with my lifestyle. I don’t have time to read the newspaper cover to cover, stay current with HR publications, google events happening in Calgary, and check out the Calgary Police news updates for what criminal is now on the loose. Twitter hands me ‘news’ in a 140 character tweet and if I’m looking for more info, I click on the link. I am a massive believer in using Twitter favourites. It is an excellent way to bookmark tweets and come back to them later (whether it be to retweet them, comment, or read up on). I am Twitter follower picky though – I follow HR professionals, travel gurus, strong independent women, entrepreneurs, news sources, and a few friends I’ve met along the way. It’s important to me that my feed is full of the information I want to hear. For every single new follower, I check out their profile, read their blog/website, and see if they align with my interests. If they do, I follow. If they don’t, I don’t follow. It’s that simple. No ulterior motives. What do I tweet about? For the most part… HR, workplace health and wellness, fashion, beauty, volunteering, happenings in Calgary, and random babble.
One will hope… that on LinkedIn and Facebook, you know all your connections/friends. Not the case on Twitter. If you end up being an active user, you tend me to make ‘internet friends.’ You may have internet friends who continually support you and believe what you stand for, or you may have internet friends who want to be your friend in real life. Uhh what… stop the train. REAL LIFE? This takes us to the concept of Tweet-ups. A tweet-up is a meet-up for people on Twitter. So the planning/organizing happens on Twitter, sometimes a user account or company will sponsor, and you all meet up at the specified location. Frightening eh?
I went to my first tweetup earlier this week. Molson 67 had sponsored the event and it was held at Hudsons Tap House. Nicole and I decided we would go, but it truly wasn’t as easy as walking in a room, greeting a bunch of strangers wearing nametags with their Twitter username displayed. I’m a social person but the concept of approval/rejection at a tweetup was terrifying. I hate to admit it, but Nicole & I got to the bar an hour… yes A WHOLE HOUR, before we had the courage to enter the room. When we finally had the courage, we immediately went up to someone we knew and started our conversation there. It’s an odd experience meeting people you’ve been talking to on the internet for months, yet have never met in person. I hugged a few people, I felt like I knew them. I stuck with people I frequently tweet to. There was a whole lot of people, I’ve never heard of… why? Because I limit who I follow. The common theme – “we’re friends now right?” No, I hardly know you. I might follow you, I might not… and we just met for the first time, and talked for 14 seconds. Friendship is a two-way street that involves attention and a whole lot of work!
Will I go to another tweetup? I honestly have no idea. I like the idea of community focused tweetups, that have a goal to raise money or support for a particular cause. Utilizing the masses to come together and do a good deed is completely up my alley. To socialize though? I’m not sure. If I get a good vibe from someone on Twitter and we have similar interests, why can’t we meet up outside of formal twit-togethers… (bahaha… I’m so funny :P). Meet in a public place with no name tags, expectations, or pressure.
This concept of stranger ‘internet friends’ also happens on YouTube, Digg, MySpace, Formspring, blogs, etc.
If you google me, you will find loads. In addition to the above, there is also my Facebook Focus 2040 Fan Page, YouTube videos, Slideshare, a blog or two, articles, and gosh knows what else. I am one of the most public people I know.
Is that always a good thing? Absolutely not. There are crazy people in this world. Stalking is so easy now. I recently had someone tell me that they google’d me and read/watched/saw my life. They understood me, they knew me, they wanted to get to know me better. It terrified me. I am proud of myself. Proud of everything I have accomplished. Proud of my personal brand. But it’s odd that someone might know me better than I know myself. It just reinforced the fact that we, as users, need to be careful. Be careful when disclosing where you are. You told your Facebook friends that you’re in Mexico… wooohoooo, Mexico. What if one of your high school friends who you haven’t seen in 10 years knows where you live and robs your house? You log into FourSquare to update that you’re at the local bar. What if one of your Twitter followers shows up their to say hi? WORSE, you log into FourSquare to update that you are at home. Now the Twitter community knows your home address. Strangers know where you are and where you live. Why do people need to know that?
In 2010, we cannot assume that everyone is kind, sincere, and a ‘good person.’ Everyone has their own agenda. Whether you make the decision to be on a social networking site or not, just be comfortable with your decision. Meet up with people you’ve met online if you see the benefit of it. People do it everyday through online dating. Just be careful. If you get a sense that something is off, chances are it is. I know that there can be major benefits of social networking sites. There is an opportunity to meet new fabulous people, new job opportunities, and a support group like no other. Likely the benefits outweigh the negative. Just don’t forget the internet isn’t the be all and end all. Relationships that you naturally make and maintain through day-to-day life (school, work, family, etc) are just as important.
Lastly, remember that everything you post on the internet is public. Google yourself. Find out what’s out there, chances are your employer and/or associations you’re involved with already know.
A few resources that might be helpful in your quest to find a balance between social media and your personal life: