What’s wrong with “social” media?

May 14th, 2010

It strikes me that one of the issues with online networking is that it is included as part of “social media”, not helped when LinkedIn et al are described as “Facebook for business”. Although I have dabbled with Ecademy, Naymz and a couple of other sites, I use LinkedIn to a far greater extent, so any mention of features and activities is based on that experience.

To my way of thinking, LinkedIn is a business networking site – part of business media. There are discussion groups which, although they could be around any common grouping, are largely to do with business, or work, in one form or another. The questions and answers section is similarly filled with business topics and tips. Ultimately, the prime motivator to connect or join, is the business connection, with colleagues, former colleagues, suppliers, customers and all those who might fit those categories, which may well include friends.

The profile is divided into areas to describe your experience and education or qualifications and the summaries are generally about business. If you read through the more comprehensive profiles, you will see they mirror what many people put on their corporate websites or cvs. A LinkedIn profile can contain far more detail than a cv and you can include personal recommendations – more about that in another edition.

On the other hand, Facebook is a social networking site – most people use it to find and keep in contact with friends. Sometimes the relationships may have originated in business and may continue to do so, but the prime motivator is the friendship. Discussions are “wall to wall” around one person’s activity and publicity abounds about advertising parties and social activities to everyone, instead of just your friends. I won’t deny there is a growing use of fan pages and groups for business use although my impression is that this is largely within the B2C market, rather than B2B at the moment and isn’t the most widely-used parts of the site.

You may ask “What difference does it make what it’s called?” I believe that one of the reasons many people are reticent to use LinkedIn, either to sign up in the first place or “do much” once they’ve been persuaded to set up a profile, is because they are introduced to social media not business media and that’s where their perceptions and assumptions start. Lots of business people struggle to see the value of face to face networking (have a look at March’s posts if this is a concern of yours) and perceive an organised event as a “jolly” so how are they going to relate to business through something called social media.

What about connecting with a stranger? It is just not the way “we do things”. I would have thought it’s easier to connect with a stranger on line through a shared group or discussion, than to walk into a room of people you don’t know and strike up conversation with said stranger. These groups are usually by invitation or acceptance, so there’s a common reason why you are both within that group which gives the majority of people a reason to connect or, as someone else put it “reach out to others”. It is also easy to leave a group and break a connection, if you really want to and I’m not going to go into detail about how to connect, join a group, answer a question or anything else here – there’s stacks out there already.

So, if you are reading this with a “Yes, but” going through your head or “Well, that’s okay for you to say, you’re good with I.T.” have another think and do some research. I was not an avid early adopter; I’ve only been using LinkedIn to any great extent since the middle of 2009 and Facebook I’m still working on. Today, I have almost 500 connections on LinkedIn, and am building ties with people using web and face-to-face in a way I hadn’t thought possible. I’ve helped, and been helped, by people from thousands of miles away as well as a few hundred miles and within walking distance.

Oh yes – I am currently doing some work for a client through a former colleague I hadn’t seen for many years. We found each other on LinkedIn!

Have a go – what have you got to lose?

Contact me if you’d like to discuss your face-to-face and online networking skills, as part of delivering your marketing strategy.

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