Personal Social Media Behavior: Connect NOT Reference

Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point tells the story of how messages travel in networks. His is the modern day observation of the power in people networks. His observation is more on how social messages affect our way of making decisions in life.

Networking between people is being modernized with social media sites. Networking was crucial to people’s life as soon as we left the little village and created big cities, people suddenly needed to connect with people they didn’t know. With today’s easy mobility, moving from location to location with a plane trip, networking is even more crucial. Networking and connections fascinate us in the age of Internet communication. It is amazing and worrisome at the same time to see how blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter enable a few people to spread messages so effectively it changes everything we know about media. But what do modern social media networking say about our behavior? How do we act personally in the modern interconnected world? These questions obviously interest us on a personal level, but they are also crucial to how we develop messages and how we use social networking sites to spread them.

There is a big difference between social media networking today and physical (personal) networking in the past. That classical networking that took place in clubs, bars and lunch room conversations. Networking between families in suburban neighborhoods and city streets. Today’s social media networking is virtual, not physical but is driven by interest, subject and even virtual group “location” (what group you choose to join and participate in.) Classical physical networking is personal, visual, local, tactile: it depended on face-to-face conversations and pats on the back. Social media networking is more functional and participatory: people are more connected if they participate in group discussions (on Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter) and become a resource to individuals. Is contributing to a virtual discussion a better way to get to know someone than having a beer at the local pub? Is writing a blog about electronic gadgets more useful than running continuing education program for professionals after working hours at your company? Differences between physical and virtual social networking are hard to characterize. I think they vary more with the type of association: are you running a professional networking group (physical or virtual) or a blog about shoe styles?

On a personal side, recently I noticed an interesting behavior. Some people see virtual social networks as substitution or analogs to physical ones. They still look to develop deep relationships. Ones where people can become references for work. When I send requests to make contact most people pass my message or give me contact information. This type of request actually falls into older networking type. But recently two very different reactions came back. One would not pass along my resume because he could not be a “reference”. I assumed that this meant he did not work with me, we were just connected in Linked-In. Another would not connect with me at all on Linked-In. He worked at the same place I did, but only had casual acquaintance with me (we met each other in the coffee corner for six months and poured each other coffee from the pot.) What’s your personal social media behavior observations and opinions?

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2 thoughts on “Personal Social Media Behavior: Connect NOT Reference

  1. funny enough, i re-read this book at the moment, it`s one of my favorite and still relevant although it is a couple of years old. My observation is that people that have a big social network in the real world have those also in the online world, it is just pushing those networks to a new medium. If you are a outspoken person that likes to have contact with people and communicating with them, it will be just the same online…

  2. Hi Chris, I agree that natural networkers use social networking sites. Networking sites are useful to connect with many people, keep events dates and notes, expand the network with “friends of friends” ~ all kind of useful “real world” features. What we see online is people who are not particularly good a networking in person face to face. I also see people like Jeff Pulver who is organizing Twitter conferences, good specialist in technology expanding to general public. In person I think he is a nice guy, but not particularly a networker, he is turning out to be a great “connector” as Gladwell calls it.

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