The online craze that is social media or social networking is creating a greater overlap between an individual’s personal and business reputations.
For most of us, this phenomenon is most evident from Facebook. Facebook is now the largest of the social media networks, closely followed by MySpace. MySpace, however, is a younger demographic or heavily entertainment (notably music) oriented. LinkedIn is what many of us believe is the professional’s online social network of choice. Yet, my rough guess says this is only true if you were born after about 1976, or so. If you were born earlier than 1976, odds are that the vast majority of your online connections are on Facebook.
The effect is that Facebook is only going to get bigger, having already secured the mindshare of the professionals and managers of the future. …and, although the LinkedIn crowd are not Luddites – in fact, they are online in high percentages – this group can’t grow at the rate of professionals on Facebook.
This matters because the social connections and activities we do, while younger, are becoming documented on communities, such as Facebook.
As one looks at the entirety of social media offerings – and see the interconnections made by the OpenSocial standards – one can see how photographs, vacations planned, sports, and many personal events are documented and commented upon within Facebook or posted across all of your social networks via interlocking feeds.
For business professionals, this requires two actions: the first is to embrace, not fear social media; and the second is to actively participate.
As a dear friend once said, “a friend is someone who knows you and likes you anyway.” What this really means is that people respond to authenticity – to the real you. Fearing social media deprives you of the opportunity and pleasure of knowing and working with people who appreciate you. This works for your employer, too. Customers seek the same authenticity in dealing with suppliers (vendors). Companies, like yours, are comprised of real people – so be real.
Active participation is a key because you can’t be authentic, if invisible. You can’t get your secretary (personal assistant), mom, or child to be the authentic you online. Moreover, as social media adoption continues to take off, you as a professional, manager or executive fall further behind in “getting it.” You don’t need to compete for the most connections, but you should seek out your real life friends and connect with them online.
In another blog post, I’ll cover what I believe constitutes a minimal professional (and business) presence for today’s social media.