On Social Media and Networking (Should Have Been a Serious Post, Turned out Otherwise)

It has been nearly a month since my satirical post on LinkedIn and bot-like HR professionals has stirred interesting discussions and unexpected reblogs. I have promised to come up with related posts regularly.

To all my new followers who were probably attracted by the Liebster-award-related nonsense: Compared to those posts this one is unfortunately a rather serious one. Compared to default social media expertise show-off it is nonsense, though.

Every opinion piece is based on the author’s secret assumptions about what makes this universe move in spacetime. For full disclosure I lay mine before you upfront:

Thinking about the blurred area where the corporate world and a subversive online universe meet I am reminded of The Cluetrain Manifesto, so this is my personal

Networking Manifesto.

Regular readers might have guessed at the following axioms:

  1. Sense of humor is the definitive  criterion that determines how well you will get along with other human beings. This also holds for future coworkers or employers.
  2. The harder corporations try to morph into social beings as per their PR stories, the weirder they appear when viewed from the inside. Corporate culture is very subtle.
  3. The tension between 1 and 2 catalyzes sparkling works in art (mainly comics and satire) as well as peculiar networking opportunities.

I did zero research for this post and I will not add outbound links – other than my own – this is ‘vanity linking’. If you are really interested in if and how I am following my own advice about social media you can stalk me on the pages and profiles listed at my Gravatar profile or my personal website.

In addition, I have no idea about a plot or structure for this post so I call this

The Top 10 +/- 5 Things I Learned from Networking on Social Media

1) Titles and taglines do matter:

If I would be a real social media expert I would have made the header of this post similar to your typical

Top Ten Self-Evident Things Anybody In His Right Mind Who Knows How to Use Google Can Come up with him/Herself Immediately

are shared like crazy on Twitter.

As a serious aside, I feel that titles of posts are important as many of my search terms are based on titles. Since I need those for Search Term Poetry, I cannot help but pick strange ones.

The same goes for your professional tagline, but it is walking a tightrope: If you want to make a change in your career you could add your aspirations to the title. E.g. if I am a historian for building intergalaxy cargo ships but I want to switch to doing strategy consulting for the cargo companies at Alpha Centauri, you might change your tagline to historian and consultant in intergalaxy shipping.

2) The mere existence of profiles does matter.

I believe we (the earth’ population) are changing our average attitude from

The internet – what a strange virtual place… and you really have a page about yourself?

to

Why in hell don’t you have an XY profile? You also have a telephone!

This is not a post on why and if this is something to be worried about, so I skip my postmodern commentary on culture. But I catch myself on being bewildered why I can’t find people on popular networks.

I don’t expect them to be active, have a lot of friends / followers (see 3) or providing a lof of details, but I wonder what’s the obstacle that would keep somebody from adding basic CV data on LinkedIn. I don’t claim my expectancy is rational.

What matters most to me as a reader is the temporal completeness as we time-travel experts say, that is
For all items it holds that [Year of finishing this = Year of starting something else]

3) There is no agreement on the importance of different networks, which ones to pick, and what it means to be a friend, contact, follower or connection.

There is a slight contradiction with 2) and I know it. But we cannot sort that out. I have received tons of invites to obscure networks I never heard of before. Other may feel the same about Google+.

I had endless discussions with people who wanted to add me on the first professional network I was a member of, actually the first network I ever signed up to in 2004 – XING, the German LinkedIn, so to say.

I have gone to great lengths in explaining that I will only accept contact requests from people I know in person or with whom I had substantial conversations online before. Others do consider these networks an option to find new contacts. I have over 600 contacts on XING despite my rigorous policies, simply for the fact I had added contacts over the years, in parallel to archiving business cards. But this large number of contacts make me appear as one of those contact collectors.

On the other hand, I entered Facebook by the end of 2012, and still I look like a networking loser with my less than 200 friends. Facebook will even block your account if you add too many friends in a short time. This is done by software in a Kafkaesque way, so there is no point complaining. This is another reason to follow my advice 2) and start out populating your list of contacts via organic growth early.

There will never be agreement with most of your contacts and friends on what a contact actually is. I believe this is the reason for the asymmetric relationships Twitter and Google+ had introduced: You can follow back, but you do not need to confirm a contact. Facebook has adopted this thinking by adding the subscriber option – now called followers, too.

I have given up and I do not take all that befriending and contacting too serious – so please go ahead and add me on all my networks if you like.

4) The internet is a public place.

This is stating the obvious. From day 1 of my existence as a web avatar – publishing my first embarrassing FrontPage generated site in 1997 – I have written every single post with a public audience in mind – even in so-called closed groups. Today I publish all my Facebook and Google+ stuff to ‘Public’.

I do not see the point of closed groups: not so much because of the risk of changing security settings in the future, triggered by a new group owner, new privacy policies, new security bugs, or careless friends publishing your friends-only stuff to the public. But I do not want waste a second on considering confidentiality issues when writing and aligning my style of writing with a specific audience. After all this should be fun, creative and weird (see 5).

I noticed – to my own surprise – that I started dreading any sort of private messages. If you want to tell me how great my postings are – please for heaven’s sake don’t send me a private Facebook message or an e-mail, but comment on them. I don’t even want to be tempted to add something ‘confidential’ in the reply and I don’t want to miss a chance to make my clever, witty reply available to the public. Zuckerberg said something about the end of privacy, and this is my interpretation of that.

As a consequence I have written about so-called personal stuff in open discussion groups and on my websites a few years ago. I have written about my lingering on the edge of burnout and have been applauded for my honesty. Today I feel my posts are not that personal even though I did not change my style. I am not into photography, so I hardly add any photos depicting something related to my private sphere. I don’t upload a photo of myself (a selfie) in a funny setting every day to Facebook. But just as my definition of ‘friend’ has changed, this might change as well.

5) The internet is a weird place, fortunately!

I was tempted to add the following to my networking manifesto:

Human beings connect with human beings, not with ‘businesses’. Members of the collective want you to remove their Borg implants.

I hope you get the picture without requiring me to go into a scholarly dissection of that great metaphor.

I mentioned the burnout confessions deliberately in 4) as they confirmed a secret theory of mine: If you present yourself as a human being, even within a so-called competitive environment, you motivate others to do the same. You lower the bar – it has the opposite effect of writing business-related e-mails at 2:00 AM that makes everybody else reply Do you ever sleep?

You might say this is off-topic and not strictly rooted in anything online – as most of these confessions happened offline actually.

I disagree as I believe that  the internet is a trigger and a catalyzer that has transformed our ways of thinking about public and private sphere. Today you often read you should take care of your online reputation and not publish your ‘drunk at a party pictures’ to Facebook. I don’t object to that, but I believe the solution is rather not to get drunk at parties.

20 years from now all people in charge of hiring others will belong to the generation whose lives have been documented online from day 1 – due to their baby-photo-Facebooking parents. Generation Y+ did not even have a chance to opt-out. I feel that they would rather consider somebody suspicious whose online utterances are all professional and sleek looking.

Since this is speculation, I add a link to a great article on Wired about the generation born 1993: “…She is casual about what some might consider the risks of oversharing. In the future, she says, it won’t matter if you did post a picture of yourself covered in chocolate, because “the people who care will all retire and the world will be run by my generation, which doesn’t give a shit…”

I owe the link and the pointer to this quote to my Google+ friends … which is the perfect bridge to a caveat that needs to be mentioned: Even if the internet is a weird place there is one important rule: Give fair credit! To other authors but also to other sharers and finders.

6) Finally I need to mention metrics.

I have a very special relationship with ‘meeting the numbers’ as readers of my articles about the corporate sphere do know. So I was delighted to have been invited to Klout. If you believe blog award nominations are like silly chain letters, consider this:

You earn scores based on your interactions and engagement on social media – that is: likes, followers, reshares, posts on your Facebook page … Unfortunately WordPress.com has not been factored in yet. Currently my score based on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and the Klout network itself is 57 which is of course above average.

This is called gamification. I won’t reiterate my usual lame jokes on AI software and failing the Turing test.

But there might be more it than providing a game for procrastinating office workers: This is the future of grading in education – and judging job applicants maybe:
Bizarre Trend: Journalism Professors Using Klout Scores As Part Of Students’ Grades

I had already run some experiments on how to increase the score by heavy tweeting – I am open to more experiments and I would appreciate if you add me as your influencer on Klout.

Klout’s mission is to empower every person by unlocking their influence.

For centuries, influence had been in the hands of a few. Social media has allowed anyone to drive action to those around them, democratizing influence.

— Quote from the Klout website: What is Klout?

Borg dockingstation

Borg Dockingstation (Wikimedia). Sorry, I know I am coasting on those clichés way too often.

So what are your thoughts – Generation Xers, Yers and Zers? (Borgs and other aliens may comment as well)

Edit – further reading: In a Twitter conversation related to this post this blog has been recommended to me – and I want to recommend it to all of you: thedigitalattitude.com. In contrast to my blog this one is really focussed on social media and how to present yourself and your skills online. 

 

21 thoughts on “On Social Media and Networking (Should Have Been a Serious Post, Turned out Otherwise)

  1. What a great follow up your legendary last post. I’m totally with you on the private messaging issue and have never understood the need or desire to say you liked a post in private when you’re not prepared to do do publicly. Also agree with the notion that once it’s on the net it’s out there so if you don’t want mum and dad to know what you’ve been up to, don’t post it. It’s really that simple.

    • Thanks, Judy! I have even seen Twitter users who added to their profiles “Not a DM reader” 😉
      Re the privacy thing Michelle’s comment below got me thinking … the only thing I am probably worried sometimes are bizarre automated processes that would (for example) trigger the shutdown of an account.
      As it has happened e.g. to users of Dropbox or SkyDrive whose accounts have been suspended because of a “suspicious file”. Same with Kindle readers wiped because of an alleged copyright infringement.
      But there is no solution to this other than not putting anything at all “on the internet” (including any sort of private cloud store, too)

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, I have a lot to learn! Although I do know quite a bit more than I did before, but then that’s what you call living, so it’s not much of an achievement. I’m not really sure what I think of all the social media, sometimes I hate it and yearn for simpler times, and then of course sometimes I really appreciate it. I have learned not to be scared of it though, in a shy sort of way, which helps me to get more out of it. I’m glad I found you in that regard, you’re teaching me about humour and how important that is. Can’t get excited about LinkedIn, but then I thought that about blogs no more than 4 months ago and look how stupid that was. Thanks again, I will keep reading (and mostly understanding) everything you say, I have you marked out as one of great wisdom 🙂

    • Thanks, Mike, I am flattered! I know my blog is a bit weird at times and an experiment in covering probably way too many things (but this is what the title says :-)). In particular, I appreciate feedback by artists – I think I enjoy the challenge of communicating with bloggers with a background very different from mine. But I have read on your blog you are an ecologist. Since I am working towards a degree in renewable energies we have something in common, I guess.
      Don’t worry about social media – your blog is great! I liked your story about the skylark’s nest:
      http://mikehowe.com/2013/05/04/guess-what-i-found/
      I guess you might enjoy this blog run by one of my most loyal commenters who is a biologist, photographer, and sustainable farmer: http://pairodox.wordpress.com/

  3. Thanks for sharing all this information. I’m going to need some time to sift through it. Up until three years ago, I was still using internet with a dial up modem, due to the geographic location of where I was living, so to become this engaged in social media in such a short time sometimes leaves me feeling dislocated sometimes, much like moving to a new city… the sheer numbers of social media platforms and outlets is itself a monster, so any help is useful.

    I’ve been trying to craft direct responses to some points, and have ended up writing and cutting out a very long block of text that rambled in a disjointed mess of tangled thoughts. I will need to think about this some more and come back with another post. For now, I simply will say thanks, as you have begun another conversation about something that is both important to me, and somewhat troubling at the same time. 🙂

    • Thanks, Michelle – I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. I hope my post was not too troubling – it is really just my opinion only and most likely limited to the specific communities and industry sectors I am familiar with. I found all those networks daunting, too, and I only use the ones indicated in the sharing buttons at the bottom.
      Looking very much forward to a future post of yours – it’s exciting to know that I might have provided a trigger to one of your posts!

      • I should be clear, it is not your words which are troubling; however, the issue is not easy. The entire concept of private lives on public display is uncomfortable to me, and yet, to have any credibility as a writer, I relinquish some of that right to privacy just by asking people to be an audience. I’ve tried to be aware as I cultivate this aspect of my professional life, also knowing that I’m expected to show something of a personality (what is called “a voice”), perhaps even more than if I was doing something else, like fixing roofs or selling cars.

        I think that all my best posts have been connected to our conversations, which only goes to say that on-line interaction can enhance our experiences, both personally and professionally. 🙂

        • I understand! I talked about the end of privacy lightly and did not justice to all aspects of it. It should be investigated in more detail in future blog posts of ours!
          Strange coincidence … but right now I discussed a disturbing story on Google Plus that happened to a German blogger running a satirical blog. She had an unexpected visit of the police because of a joke on her blog – her children had given her a fake academic title from a questionable institution for fun and she “signed” a satirical post about that anecdote with that fake title. That was enough to accuse her of using a misleading a title (or whatever this crime is called) – and policemen searching her house in the early morning (!!).
          So I am not so much concerned about people knowing about my feelings as about triggering a chain of Kafkaesque events … in the same way I worry about WordPress or Facebook suddenly suspending my account because some automated software bot has found something suspicous in my posts. Again, it is about the system that has developed consciousness of its own … one of my pet topics.
          And I agree: I also think the best posts are triggered very specific conversations – our conversations added a lot this blog! Actually my first post that had some real response was my reply to Dan’s first nominating me for a blog award.

          • I have a small sense of what that woman experienced; some of the more paranoid individuals in our neighbourhood had some confusing and upsetting reactions to learning I was writing a book, and I was accused of spying on them for my story. I don’t think anyone really believes me when I talk about oil patch society–not unless they are lawyers or social workers–so I don’t think I’d sell many stories, as they’d appear too sensational to be believed. Thus, most of their secrets remain safe with them. After being perceived as something I’m not, I don’t find it odd to worry about being misread.

            I’d be very interested to learn more about your thoughts on system consciousness.

            I’ve been writing assertive problem-solving letters today, so if I sound abrupt it is only because I’ve had to transition into a frame of mind that demonstrates a high level of impatience and disbelief, and haven’t done a proper job of transitioning back to relaxed blogger. 🙂

            • Don’t worry – you sound perfectly OK 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story – probably you should write a script for a TV series and call it People of Weyburn or something.

  4. Like all of your posts Elke … this one is intelligent, honestly irreverent, and to-the-point. I’m not an expert but I believe that too many folks get carried away with what I like to call the ‘I-Love-Me Syndrome’ and measure net worth via your ‘gamification’ (if I understood that correctly). I have come to learn that if your stuff is good … people will read it. To some degree playing the game will result in increased Klout … but it won’t be lasting and will be of little value. My sphere is very, very, very small but of the highest quality … and that’s fine by me. I’m not sure what all this has to do with the corporate world … I’ll leave that analysis up to you. D

    • Thanks for the kind comment, Dave! “Honestly irreverent”, ha ha, I really like this and take it as a badge of honor.
      I agree with you – in order to keep your Klout score at a high level you need to be extremely active in your self-promotion.
      I see the relationship with the corporate world in this way: My online activities provide a kind of filter. Probably I have repelled some potential clients (usually I say “deflected” – using Trekkie speak), but those who read my stuff and become or remain clients are the most loyal ones and it is fun and pleasure to work with them.
      Thus imagining I would be a job seeker … and an employer would seriously judge my skills on my Klout score: This is not the company I wanted to work at anyway.

      • Ha! That last comment reminds me of funny story regarding the granting of tenure in the academic sphere. I had a colleague to got in BIG trouble when he expressed his surprise and just a little bit of displeasure at being awarded tenure … he said, “I’m not so sure this is club I am happy to belong to.” Boy he really got into deep trouble for the honest comment.

  5. Glad I found you back. Tons of things in your post that I need to digest. Since I am not a Time Lord, though I aspire to be one, finding time to participate in, as you say, such a disjointed group of communities, is a challenge. I will check out your earlier posts in an attempt to understand your point of view better. Nice to meet you.

  6. Loads to think about–as usual. Good thing you decided not to be serious!
    Speaking of social networking, I do have some sort of presence on all of the ones noted in your ‘share this’ line but I must say that this one is my favourite.
    Google+: I’m more of a minus.
    Email: I’ve been conditioned to dread it.
    Twitter: too many people tweet far too much; ergo far too much garbage.
    Facebook: where do I start? Too many passed-around memes, too many urban myths being passed around as if they were real and, worse of all. NO–I do not really care what anyone is presently having for lunch…unless, of course they wish to extend an invitation to me.
    Linkedin: Not sure it does the things it’s supposed to. Too many of my potential colleagues are NOT on it for me to make any use of it.

    • Thanks, Maurice!
      Yes, WordPress.com is my favorite, too. The only place I can dump my long-winded stuff to, haha.
      I don’t have a really strong opinion on all those networks – I rather consider all of them part of an ongoing experiment. For example, I never expected all the communities to be so disjoint. Obviously different networks appeal to different people.
      Re LinkedIn: The only substantial request for anything I ever got on LinkedIn was to review that book on spam poetry 🙂 This is the subversive way of using a business network I truly enjoy!
      On the German business network the fields for Haves and Wants in my profile have been populated with “Subversive Ideas” (and nothing else) for a long time.

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