December 12, 2008

Social Media and Your Friends: Oil and Water?

By Phil Glockner of Scribkin (FriendFeed/Twitter)

I have to admit to being 'in the closet'. But my closet is huge. In fact, it may be bigger than my whole house!

How is that possible? Well, in real life, not many of my friends and associates know that I am addicted to social media and social networks. And therefore, there are many more of you here in my closet, with me, than there are people out there.

Oil and Water

So here is my dichotomy. I'm an introvert. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test pegs me as an ISTP: Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving. What this translates to, realistically, is me being an IT guy that has a small circle of friends and a moderate number of acquaintances that I am always forgetting to mail birthday cards to.

On the flip side, I am part of a large and exciting social network society via blogs like this one, FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, and the like. I definitely spend more time with my online friends, but less time actually building individual relationships.

And in fact, that is part of the problem.

In essence I have close friends who may not be that impressed or interested in social networks and social media. But, I also have a lot of acquaintances all over the country that I enjoy interacting with, but it's up in the air if any of them will become a good friend of mine.

Should They Mix?

Of course, the easiest path is to allow the oil and water to keep what they are doing, which is to say, not mixing. After all, is there any compelling reasons why they should meet? I think that may actually be the more interesting question. After much thought, I think (at least for me) that the answer is yes, there are compelling reasons. Let me lay them out for you.

Starting The Mixture

Literally and figuratively, there are solutions you can use to 'solve' these issues. You would most likely start with your immediate circle of friends. Think about why they would care about your interest in social networks. If they had an academic interest, they probably would have broached the subject with you already, asked you questions about it. If they haven't its probably because they either don't know or they have already decided they aren't interested.

However, nobody is ever uninterested in a better job, or more income. Use this as your way of ringing the front door. Ask your friends, have they ever gotten a better job through a job hunting service like Monster or HotJobs? Probably not. You usually have to have a perfect resume and superlative phone interview skills to even occasionally get a job that way. Differentiate social networks from job listing services.. one deals with job openings, the other with people who work at companies and businesses.

In the long run, social networks are actually better at landing a job, and its easy to say why: People get people hired. If you know someone, have a working relationship or a shared background with them, they feel confident recommending you for a job. A listing service only tells you what jobs a company has had trouble filling. It doesn't say anything about the people you are going to be working with, or how great the company is to work for.

In fact you can think of as a roadmap, giving you an indication of where a new job may be the most promising, but the real work should be done on LinkedIn, Facebook or Plaxo and other social networks. These services give you access to the people. The people on these services can answer questions, open doors, drop your name.

Apply Tweet .. I Mean Heat

Ok, so now you have your friends' interest. There's something in it for them. LinkedIn and Plaxo are sold.. but what about Twitter? Here's an easy way to present Twitter: It is the 21st century word-of-mouth. It's water cooler taken to a whole new level. Is it essential to building a brand or conducting business? No, in my opinion, no.. at least not yet. But the potential upside is great: It is a huge, globe-spanning even playing field where people can see how you work, and you can easily keep people up-to-date on any aspect of your work or personal life you feel is important to communicate.

Most likely your life isn't going to change by using Twitter or FriendFeed. If you are a realtor, you aren't going to be selling houses directly off these services. However, if you are looking for a realtor and you like two people (all else being equal), one who is nice and another one who is also plus gives great advice about house-hunting and hot properties on their Twitter, who are you going to choose? I know I'd pick the guy on Twitter.


At this point your friends have a personal interest, and they can see the potential for long-term interest. But if you want to bring home why using a social network all the time isn't necessarily a bad thing, you can present this argument:

Spending all day using FriendFeed and Twitter could be seen as a colossal waste of time. To most people, it makes about as much business sense as playing video games. However, I don't view social media (or even video games) that way. I see it as undergoing a constant process of self-education on powerful social tools that have a lot of potential to be very important to business and marketing in the future.

Actually, video games are a very good example to present this alternative point of view. The video game industry is bigger than Hollywood. It's not only not rare, but not even particularly uncommon to hear that someone who spent years immersed with video games getting a lucrative job in the industry as a writer, designer or producer. In other words, social media is not a 'waste of time.' Sure, if you view it as a learning course, it would definitely be self-paced. But the skills learned are ultimately beneficial.

Make It Personal

So, you have said your schtick. Your friends see you in a new light. At this point, you can't go back to treating them the way you did before, in the dark until you talk to them on the phone or in person. Now, you need to show them that you have mastered using these tools to improve or at least maintain your business relationships. Here are some things you can do to get them drawn in to the social media framework:
  • Send them interesting news clippings via e-mail from Google Reader or BlogLines. Or use another tool that lets you e-mail web pages, like Diigo.
  • Bookmark good Twitter or FriendFeed conversations and e-mail those with your thoughts.
  • In person, always be thinking of ways you can point people to solutions using social media. Like the realtor suggestion above.
  • Make sure you have a lifestream page. Try to pare down the nonessentials so that it just shows the highlights of your work during the day, and some linked pages where they can go to get more information.
There is one more step you can do to make this process personal: You can involve your social media friends into your life. Think of meetup ideas (for Twitter folks, use 'tweetup'): Sunday breakfast. Thursday evening coffee. Get local.. find twitterers in your city. Find or plan get-togethers with locals who are also social media savvy and compare notes. Bring a friend along.

The bottom line is that people are people. They like to be introduced to each other, usually, but they find it hard to make these connections themselves. Become a connector. Social media is all about making you the connector, and you will reap the benefits.

Read more by Phil Glockner at