I guess the original idea behind a social network is to socialize – communicate to others. The idea of group communication is not new at all. Some people might remember Bulletin Boards from 15-20 years ago, Compuserve / AOL (Still alive somewhat) / NNTP News groups (still available but are very different). Social networks got popular with MySpace and FaceBook. They were originally discarded as “play time” activities and are even now often restricted from access through corporate networks. However their professional use is increasing rapidly.
Even though I’ve been using social networking in my professional day-to-day for a wile, I’ve recently started to get a lot more engaged. Some of the dynamics of the site are astounding. I wrote a few comments on my www.StackOverflow.com experience. I’ve been using the site as a public forum for development related questions. It is amazing how fast other developers respond to the questions asked. if a question in well phrased, it can get multiple answers within minutes (sometimes even seconds)
Another tool is my network arsenal is my LinkedIn. The network grows exponentially as you start adding contacts. At this point, I have 185 direct connections. However, my total network is more then 2.2 million people. Considering that I only add people that I’ve been communicating with into my contacts list, that’s 2.2 million people that I can be pretty comfortable in asking for an introduction to. Until recently, I’ve used LinkedIn to do some background research on potential candidates. However, recently, I’ve started to get involved in the professional groups and ask questions. Unlike StackOverflow, LinkedIn has a very broad range of people that use it to connect to each other. This allows me to tap into the pool of resources and information that is wider then any one area of expertise. At the same time, since this is not a pure “social” network, all communication is professional.
StackOverflow and LinkedIn are great places to ask for information. Blog on the other hand is a great way to share it. There are blog networks that will provide you not only a place to host your blog, but as a community of readers that are interested in the contents. That will get you feedback on the topics you write.
Micro Blogging with Twitter is relatively new (from October 2006). However it is hard to understate the extend of the idea, the importance (and simplicity) of the technology and the reach of the network. There is a lot of talk about twitter on the web
- How to Use Twitter as a Twool
- Poll results: 7 reasons why 69% of users think Twitter will go mainstream
Twitter can be used for anything from saying “I am bored” or “I am having lunch” to a more professional “Listening to so-and-so at the conference” or “Found this great article at http://www…” the short statement you make is broadcasted to all subscribers. You can include a subscribers' @name and the message (though still public) will be flagged on his screen so it is noticed. The whole interaction feels like room full of people with multiple conversation going on. You focus on a conversation with one or two people, but you can still overhear others. If you hear something interesting, you join in.
FriendFeed is an interesting service that takes information push to the next level. It creates one channel for sharing all your information. It connects to over 30 networks including Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Del.ici.os, and others. It allows to setup friends and will follow their feeds as well. You can even setup an “imaginary” friend to organize someone’s information if they are not participating in FriendFeed.
Importance of Information Push
One thing to notice, is that I am putting a lot of emphasis on pushing the information to others. That is the important aspect of having a social network. Google does excellent job in providing an ability to search and access public information. However, it is the ability to interact by asking questions, by publicizing your ideas is what makes social networks really useful in professional atmosphere.