Anti-Social Networking

This is a cautionary post for those fearless space travelers who might venture too close to the unforgiving Black Hole of Social Networks. Some of us may have already found our atoms placed end-to-end as we’ve been MySpaced, Friendstered, Facebooked, Twittered, Twined, and LinkedIn.

Just remember, there is nothing new under the stars. Social Networking is as old as the phone tree and the Listserv. What the new internet flavored Social Media tools lack in focus they attempt to garner through massive proportion. In this quote from ‘Social Media Predictions 2009’ CHRIS BROGAN makes a similar point:

‘We’ll still have Facebook and Twitter, but the real interest will be in making targeted networks that aren’t ‘come one, come all.’…where the tools and the goals match verticals of interest instead of the general commons of Facebook.’

‘Verticals of interest’ – I like the sound of that It presumes that we are attuned to our users needs and willing to communicate with them, and that we’ve taken the time to develop a ‘social networking strategy’ before piling into our spaceship.

PETE BLACKSHAW puts it this way:
‘More industry analysis will suggest that live conversations with consumers, empathetically executed, can have far bigger payout and viral/word-of-mouth impact than most social media tools.’

In other words, we should broaden our understanding of what Social Networks can be beyond the much heralded Facebook-of-the-week variety. We use these tools every day: Sharepoint is a social network. Email alerts, page ratings, Online Help Desks, blogs (especially with comments turned on), and surveys are all social network tools. We can use them all to break the chain of bureaucratic anonymity between our customers and our content.

A final warning from GREG VERDINO

‘Marketers will continue to put tactics before strategy and implement next year’s shiny object to ‘socialize’ their web presence without quite understanding why it’s important to do so.’

Here’s a field guide for a Social Media Planning Strategy

  • Research – Research the services and investigate the functions and differences between them.
  • Set up a trial phase – Perhaps even not company branded, just to try out the network culture.
  • Goals – Be specific about what you hope to accomplish, how much time it will take to establish and maintain, and how you will prove effectiveness.
  • Target Audience – Back to ‘Verticals of Interest’. Let your customers inform your decisions.
  • Resources – Who will maintain and manage the Social Network?
  • Integration Points – Can your efforts be rolled in with current practices to avoid duplication and leverage content re-use?
  • Reporting Structure – Who do you report to about changes and customer feedback?
  • Once you have your plan, get it blessed by management and kick it into hyper-space.

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Karen Lee Davis

Excellent! I have to agree. I like GovLoop because it is directed at me. In my recent non-profit, neck-deep-in-secondary-ed job we were encouraged to use Facebook… because it was there. We used it because the kids were using it. If thought if I was sent another piece of flair or more karma I would scream. The only adult I met in the last two years using Facebook as an actual tool for work was a court clerk hunting down bad guys. (People put the darnedest info on their sites!) I really like how John includes other types of programs and systems in the social networking bag. I am a SharePoint, Moodle and Sakai guru… these strategy planning points are spot on for those types of social networks as well. Thanks, John! I thought I was alone!

Ben Overmyer

There are two problems I can see with getting too specialized: 1) Specialized social networks lack the ability to cross-pollinate, and 2) by requiring users to join yet another social network, they devalue each other incrementally based on sheer volume of information traffic.

Aggregate services like FriendFeed mitigate this to some extent, but still…. two things worth considering.

Karen Lee Davis

My gentle push-back is that well done “specialized” social networks like GovLoop transcend and include, in this case, local, state, federal employees and consultants to government, **and** cuts through departmental and agency silos. I see a lot of cross-pollination here… without a single piece of flair or egg in sight! I don’t have to know, nor do I care, that your favorite color is red. (OMG! Mine too!) ;->

After a year, I recently dumped my Facebook account. I spent most of my online time declining off-the-wall “friends” (who must have grabbed my name out of a hat) and apps. It wore me out. It won. I seem to have more time now to Twitter, blog, check email, read the HuffPo, surf, spend some time in Second Life and poke about the three specialized social networks I really care about. For me, Facebook was the “shiny object” mentioned in the piece above and not the effective one-stop-shopping tool as I had hoped. That may change; its interface and filtering may get more robust and helpful to me and then I will go back. I will keep an eye out. @davis_k

Karen Lee Davis

Facebook update! ‘Broke down and set up a new, fresh Facebook account. (I was an early adopter but just couldn’t stand it! See other comments.) Boy, this time around, the new interface (and Twitter integration), plus not accepting gifts and aps has opened an interesting world to me. I have warned all my friends not to be offended when I turn them down (and I guess I should start the Curmudgeon Group) but not having to manage flair, karma, rain forest trees, flowers, tattoos, vampires, zombies, teddy bears, pokes, hugs, cakes, rainbows, gems, bricks, mobs, eggs, bubbles, knighthoods and causes, may make Facebook a pleasant experience for me this time around! I still don’t see it being used as an effective tool in the workplace yet (too generalized, and most managers haven’t been trained not to freak), but I’ll take your word for it and keep myy ear to the ground. (P.S. I do agree wholeheartedly about having to repeat myself… I am all for secure, single sign-on with Shibboleth or its ilk.) –K.