Earlier this week I received an invitation to join an online social networking community from an old college friend who is now based in New Zealand.
My heart sank – not because I had just heard from her – no it was the idea of having to join another online social networking group. So I carefully crafted my reply to say that I would love to stay in contact, but unfortunately I would have to decline joining the group as I am already on Facebook, LinkedIn, Ziggs, Ecademy and participate in a number of online forums, am on Twitter and Jaiku and author a number of blogs.
I knew that I could not do justice to being an active participant on another online forum.
It was a little like Christmas lunch – another social networking site was just one too many, like taking that extra mouthful of turkey and feeling like you were about to explode!
But I’m noticing I am not alone. I just heard from a friend they were about to unsubscribe from Facebook as they feel like they are spending too much time online and then Damien emailed me to say he was cleaning up his LinkedIn contacts but was staying on LinkedIn as he thought a number of people were there that he wanted to be connected to.
I often get asked which social networking site should we use – and my answer is that it always depends on your goals for being a member of a social networking community.
It’s no different to joining a professional association of face to face networking community. In fact it’s a good time of year now to evaluate which of the associations and communities you are a member of and if you want to continue to be a member of them in the forthcoming year – to help you, you can listen to a podcast I did about evaluating your networking plan here.
Let’s take a look at a couple of specific examples and why you might want to consider being a member. There are many similarities between the online communities so I am just going to highlight a couple of specific differences.
This is one of the first social networking sites I recommend you upload your personal profile to, especially if you are in a corporate a position as you can:
- add your complete work history and career profile – it’s like having your CV or resume online
- you can search for people through your immediate contacts that you would like to connect to – for example when the Challenge Ireland round Ireland Yacht race was taking place in 2006, I got to know the organising team and supported them in connecting them with key contacts and with research all through a mutual contact on LinkedIn
- you can make your profile visible in a Google search – as you know from my many other articles and podcasts on building your personal brand online, it’s critical that we are found when people search for us by name in the search engines
- you can add testimonials and recommendations to your profile – consider this an online reference.
It is especially important if you are looking to progress in your career as Linkedin is certainly seen as THE professional online network and is used by executive search consultants and recruiters alike to find candidates for roles.
Increasingly in 2007, more and more business leaders are moving onto Facebook. This is partly due to the publicity about Facebook and word of mouth, but the ease of use and ability to customise your profile has been another driver.
In Facebook you can:
- directly connect to people unlike on LinkedIn where you have to have a paid membership to directly contact people rather than through an introduction. I have been amazed at some of the world leading experts who have been happy to connect to my Facebook network.
- customise your Facebook page to reflect your interests and expertise, enhancing and reflecting your personal brand online
- use Facebook purely for personal networking as many people do, as at this moment in time your Facebook profile is not visible to the search engines so there is no risk that it will be found in a Google search – though my recommendation is to always make sure that whatever you write online you would be happy for anyone to find and read
- quickly scan information and news from your network and follow up with them if there is something of interest you want to connect with them about
- add your feeds from your blog to your Facebook profile.
I have found people are generally more active on Facebook which makes it feel like a more energetic place to be.
In summary, I find LinkedIn is used by people in leadership roles in business and those people actively managing their career as it’s a little more discriminating in terms of connections. I consider my connections in my LinkedIn network as people I would happily recommend and refer as I know their work.
Facebook is far more relaxed and is like a group of eclectic friends with perhaps business or social interests in common. I’ve found people who are world wide experts are really happy to connect on Facebook which is exciting and seems to level the playing field.
For me, the question of which social network to join really comes down to the time you have to nurture your online network and your purpose for joining a social networking site – but it’s like any network online or offline, if you invest in it you will reap results.
I predict that over the next 12 months more and more people will join social networking communities but they will become more discriminating about the ones they choose to use.
Just as we choose which professional association or offline networking community we want to join based on perceived value, return on investment (be that time or money), the ability to connect with key influencers (be they people who can support us in our career or may connect us to potential clients) and where people we like to be with hang out, you can use similar criteria to determine which online network to be a member of.
But remember that the same rule for networking online as offline is critical – it is about giving to your network, adding value and supporting them – that is what will enable you to build lasting relationships and friendships which is the platform for great career and professional success.