Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Social Networking Faux Pas

Social-networking sites are a connection to the World at your fingertips, and their popularity is growing daily. Although they're old statistics, MySpace saw a 72 percent increase in visitors in 2007 over the year before, while Facebook showed a 270 percent increase over the same time, according to comScore, a leader in measuring the digital world. MySpace may be declared dead; especially since Facebook has officially grown to 250 million active users across the world in July of this year, according to a post on the company blog by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook Icon
"For us, growing to 250 million users isn't just an impressive number; it is a mark of how many personal connections all of you have made, and how far we at Facebook have to go to extend the power of connection to the billions of people around the world," Zuckerberg wrote. (The post is accompanied by an animation of how Facebook's growth spread around the world, which is pretty cool.)

Less than 3 months prior to that, in March or April, Facebook announced that it had reached 200 million members. Then, Facebook commemorated the occasion with the launch of a new nonprofit-focused initiative, Facebook for Good. This time, they're not launching anything fancy, just assuring members that they're continuing to develop and innovate.

I don't want to concentrate on Facebook when Twitter has experienced very similar growths. The latest numbers from Nielsen Online indicate that Twitter grew 1,382% year-over-year in February, 2009, registering a total of just more than 7 million unique visitors in the US for the month. Not only is that huge growth in one year, but in one month as well, as in January, Twitter.com clocked in with 4.5 million unique visitors in the US, meaning the service grew by more than 50 percent month-over-month. Other figures show that Twitter grew even more in the following months, which correspond with the same period for Facebook's growth.

Social Network

With access to millions of people all over the World just a click away, these sites (not just Facebook & Twitter) have become valuable tools for many things including finding employment. Employers are checking job applicants' profiles on sites like Facebook, Brightfuse and LinkedIn, according to a CareerBuilder.com survey in 2008.

Twenty-two percent of employers say they use social networking sites when evaluating job candidates, and an additional 9 percent intend to do the same soon. Yet, only 16 percent of workers with social networking profiles have modified their pages with potential employers in mind.

It's not just about how your social networking habits can impact your career, it's about how you carry yourself and your personal brand. Sarah Evans with Mashable put it best when she said:
Your social media personality becomes part of your brand’s legacy. Don’t brand your personality for the day, the month or the year. This is serious stuff. What you post stays around for a pretty long time and the information (good and bad) isn’t too hard to find. Your social media posts offer vast archives of information about you.

This means, what you share, post or tweet today should reinforce your brand tomorrow. Think about each message you share via social media as an email which has gone public to your entire organization and all of your stakeholders. Now, imagine if they are reading this email and RESPONDING to it. That’s part of the power of your social media brand.

With more than 100 social networking sites out there, it should come as no surprise that there are faux pas to avoid --The dos and don'ts of social networking, if you will.

Amongst such social networking faux pas is one, again, from one of my favorite editors Sarah Evans with Mashable:

Don’t be a social schizo

Multiple personality disorders do not work well in social media. If you confuse, you lose. If you are a business expert one day, a media maven the next and live news feed after that, people will ultimately stop connecting.

A very simple approach is to make a short list of what you WILL talk about via social media. Stick with it. The pay off? When someone thinks about an expert in interior design, they will think of you because you will have BRANDED yourself as one. (DISCLAIMER: This is not an opportunity to "play a doctor on T.V." You should actually be an expert in the areas you claim to be.)

The same concept applies for joining multiple networks. Keep the same personality for each.

Ever heard the compliment about a truly admired person, "he or she is the same in public as he or she is behind closed doors?" This is what I believe to be the golden rule of your social media personality. Live your brand across all networks (including offline).

Here are a few other faux pas.

Don't forget others can see your friends

Unless you've opted to keep your friends list private, your friends can see the contacts you've made. So in addition to keeping your friends' risqué pictures and comments off of your profile, be cautious about whom you befriend and when. Tying this back to how social networking could impact your career ... According to a report on MSN.com, several companies are now using the "friends" on an applicant's social-networking page as references. Not only are they looking at your page on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, which can easily be found through a simple Google search, they may also take the next step in contacting your friends. It's important to be selective with whom you choose as a friend on these sites, because what they say weighs on whether you land the job.

Don’t market yourself on anyone’s Facebook page — or even look like you’re trying to

"Some people really cross the line," says Matthew Fraser, a senior research fellow at INSEAD and co-author of Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work, and World. "As soon as you accept an offer to be their friend, they’ll write a note on your wall: ‘I’m Bill Jones. I’m a life coach. I help people solve their problems.’ You realize someone is using your personal space as a billboard for their business, and it’s irritating."

Don’t let your networking end online

I'm a huge fan of this one particular point, and have talked about it in the past. Many people rack up new connections on sites like LinkedIn without ever solidifying the relationships they’ve started there. Try to set up an in-person meeting when you can, or perhaps even arrange a "virtual coffee," where you both chat by phone over a cup of coffee at your desks. Once you’re in a real relationship with someone, you find out who they are and how they’re doing. That way, your contacts, especially on such sites as LinkedIn, are more real than most. It makes it easier for you to help them; and in return, for them to help you when you need it.

For Facebook, I strongly encourage everyone to read Facebook Faux Pas - What Not to Do in Social Network View. Another good source, which made good headlines recently, is HowStuffWorks' "Top 10 Things You Should Not Share on Social Networks."  ▣

Click here to see Tuesday-only posts.

No comments: