I thought I had no time for LinkedIn or Facebook -- let alone Twitter! Boy was I wrong.

February 27, 2009

My 17 year old son Kevin's life seems to revolve around Facebook. I’ve dipped my toe in the Facebook and LinkedIn waters, but figured I just didn’t have time to dig deeper into what all the excitement was about. 

Until now.  I just attended an excellent seminar led by Nicole Ellison, Assistant Professor of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University.  She’s been studying the explosion of online social networking for several years.  By the time she finished, I realized that I've been missing the boat by not utilizing these 21st Century business tools.  

What's so great about them? We all know having an excellent network is important.  But you have to stay in touch with people and keep connections fresh.  How do you do that and still get "real work" done?  LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to start. 

 The real power of social networking sites is their ability to dramatically expand two things:   1) Your personal and professional networks of people and 2) Your sources of fresh and valuable information.  Why is that important?  Here's what I learned: 

About LinkedIn (you need to be a member to access my profile)   

  • Research has shown that we are more likely to get job opportunities, make new career connections and discover new things from people outside our normal circles.  So, the wider our circles of connections, the better.  
  • LinkedIn is quickly becoming the new professional resume.  One executive recruiter said she won’t even look at a candidate unless she or he has a LinkedIn site.  How come?
  • Because what you claim about yourself on Linked In is out there publicly – sort of like Wikapedia for others to confirm.  People have been exaggerating on resumes for years.  But when your professional track record is publicly posted on LinkedIn – and you have recommendations from others confirming that you’ve done what you’ve claimed -- that's credible.  
  • It's also a tremendous way to minimize the number of degrees of separation between you and people you would like to meet.  Once you are a member of LinkedIn, you begin building your network.  Once someone allows you to add them to your network, you can see whose in their network -- and can contact those people directly, asking if they will allow you to connect with them. 
  • Can you begin to imagine the possibilities?    

So what's the insight? If you’re already on LinkedIn, take another look at your profile.  Treat it as a living resume that really reflects everything you’re interested in doing now and your track record.  If your not on LinkedIn -- and having an excellent professional network is important to you -- you're missing a powerful tool.  Plus, it's free.  

How about Facebook? (You have to be a member to access my profile)

  • It's much more personal. 
  • Mark Zuckerberg, who founded it when he was a student at Harvard is now 23 years old and worth $1.5 BILLION. 
  • I'm not sure why anyone is interested in reading the What I’m Doing Right Now posts from all their friends. But it’s not just for kids anymore.  People over 40 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook which now claims to have over 175 million subscribers. 
  • It’s fast becoming a very acceptable way to build a more personal relationship with people who might otherwise simply be acquaintances you rarely see.
  • In 2006, My Space was the #1 online social network, with over 100 M users.  Facebook passed it in 2008 and hasn't looked back.

What’s the downside?  That the line can be very fine indeed between social networking and career disaster.  It’s not just high school or college students who make the critical error of forgetting that everything posted on the internet has the potential of somehow becoming viral.  

And how about Twitter?  It’s for sharing very short bits of information – no more than 140 characters.  That’s it.  Just enough to send the URL to a website you just discovered or put out a headline on breaking news. 

  • You can select whose tweets you want to follow, such as people who are doing work or research you’re interested in.  For example, I’m working on a book on women’s leadership.  So, if  Ann Dunwoody, the first woman named Four Star General, were twittering, I might follow her for awhile. 
  • Same goes for comedienne Tina Fey.  I’d love to hear her running commentary on national news or check out some of her favorite websites.  
  • For great tips to get you started tweeting like a pro click here.   

  I'm not on Twitter yet.  But I'm start to think of it as the 21st Century version of having scouts on the trail up ahead.  If you select your scouts well, chances are they'll be sending back valuable information on trails (cool websites) you might want to follow and great vistas still beyond your line of sight.  


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