Confession time. I’m still pretty (very!) uncertain about how to take advantage of Facebook and LinkedIn. I’m still learning how to actually use Twitter. And I have friends, a son, a brother, who try to tell me how to do things with my computer, and I just have great trouble “getting it.” It’s so embarrassing!
By the way, I speak regularly to residents at retirement communities on Current Events, and I try to help them learn about this brave new world. And it really is almost like the blind leading the blind. They think I am some kind of modern marvel because I have a blog – and my brother and son think I am some kind of Luddite… (though they are very kind about it).
Well, enough introduction. Here are two articles worth checking out: one about Facebook, the other about LinkedIn. They haven’t helped me use these two sites more effectively, but they have helped me understand their potential a little more.
In the New York Times’ Zuckerberg: Non-Evil Non-Genius? by Robert Wright, we learn again the good fortune of being really quick to understand, and the absolute necessity of being in the right place at the right time. Here are some excerpts:
Now communities would be defined not at all by geography — by the bounds of a campus — but only by the mutual-consent links that don’t seem to have been part of Zuckerberg’s original vision.
In retrospect, I think there was something uniquely powerful about this path — building islands of dominance at elite universities, spreading to less elite universities, then linking the islands and finally abandoning geography altogether as the organizing principle. I think this path gave Facebook a momentum that helped it dislodge the pre-existing social networks Friendster and MySpace. And it’s fairly clear that the path wasn’t planned.
My own view of technological history is that this is often the way big leaps happen. The people we call visionaries and geniuses, like Bill Gates, typically weren’t any more prescient than some of their rivals. They were mainly just in the right place at the right time.
Sure, they were really smart, and they had some other key features. Gates and Zuckerberg shared an instinct that helped them exploit network externalities: they were always willing to sacrifice short-term profit in exchange for growing market share.
And, of course, both of them played hardball. I’m not aware of any tactical deceptions Gates perpetrated that were as egregious as Zuckerberg’s duping of the Winklevosses, but none of Gates’s competitors ever confused him with Mr. Rogers.
It’s certainly possible, as Sorkin suggests, to be an evil genius. But the much more common condition is to be not quite evil and not quite a genius. When your co-star is positive network externalities, that’s plenty.
And in The Social Network That Gets Down to Business by Miguel Helft, we learn of one businesswoman who is learning how to use LinkedIn to grow her business. Here are some brief excerpts:
Joanna Wiseberg began Red Scarf Equestrian, which makes stylish handbags and other luxury goods for horse lovers, two years ago, just as the economy plunged into recession. “My business is a niche within a niche…
Her tool was LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals that is often perceived as a workaday cousin to the social butterfly of Facebook. But as Ms. Wiseberg discovered, LinkedIn is actually more than just a place for job seekers to post a résumé. “I wouldn’t be here without LinkedIn,” she said.
For any company in the social networking business, it is not easy living in the shadow of Facebook and Twitter. With 500 million users connecting with friends, trading photos, videos and articles, or whiling the time away on social games, Facebook has pretty much locked up the field. For its part, Twitter has carved a solid niche for those interested in broadcasting their thoughts 140 characters at a time.
But with its unabashed utilitarian bent, LinkedIn has built a presence in social media. Anyone with a career, a business or ambitions to climb the corporate ladder can network with 75 million people who use it, in large part, to find jobs or to recruit candidates for jobs.
Network as if LinkedIn were a big industry trade show. Search for people you know and invite them to be part of your network. Regular users of LinkedIn say a common mistake that newcomers make is to limit their network. So how many is enough?
There are no absolutes, but Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, says that 35 connections appears to be the minimum to make the viral properties of social networks truly useful. (As in any network, you don’t want to include people who could drag down your reputation. LinkedIn lets you deflect unwanted invitations with the Archive button so no one knows they have been rejected by you.)
“I had to go global, because the market in Canada is too small,” Ms. Wiseberg said. “I’m getting there.”
A few observations:
#1 – Learning to use the tools of this new social network connected world is almost a necessity, especially for the independent consultant, self-employed world so many of us live and work in. We almost have to take the time to figure it out.
#2 – The tools make it easier for us, all the time. My blog is automatically updated on my LinkedIn page. This really helps me. At the bottom of every blog post are all of these buttons (I don’t even understand what each of them links to/how people use them…). I practically always use the “tweet” button, putting each blog post on Twitter. Others use some of the other buttons. (I hope you will to). In other words, the sites keep finding ways to help non-experts, like me.
#3 – The younger folks beat us baby boomers on all of these.
A while back, we had a wonderful session on LinkedIn as a bonus program after a First Friday Book Synopsis. I tried to describe the session to my son – and he had this glazed over look in his eyes. His attitude was, “who needs a session on how to do this?” I had to explain to him that his old dad needed such a session. He was perplexed.
In other words, the college students who use Facebook (of course, they all do!) don’t ever read anything about how to use Facebook, don’t take seminars on how to use Facebook… they just use Facebook. And, they get it, and understand its value. Me?…not so much.
So, the younger you are, the easier it is to use all of the tools in the brave new world. For folks my age, it is constantly a challenge.
Anyway, read these two articles. If you are a baby boomer, they will help you understand, and maybe spur you on a little to tackle using these tools more energetically. If you are my son’s age, you’ve quit reading this blog post long ago…