Is Social Media Just a Bunch of Crap?

Social Media seems to be all the rage (I feel awfully old by saying “all the rage,” by the way).  It is a term thrown all over the place, and it seems that every person I know either embraces it full force or avoids it completely.  I, on the other hand, seem to fit squarely in the middle: the amount of tools available for social media is daunting.  I have tried several of them: I have this blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a LinkedIn account, and a Plaxo account. My company has a Twitter account which pushes to its website and its Facebook fan page, but the source of most of the content I push out of tumblr.

All of this so far has gotten little recognition, but has already enriched my online experience.  If I need any sort of professional service – a business card printer, a civil engineer with a certain type of experience, subcontractors with particular skill sets or capabilities – with a tweet or a post to LinkedIn, I have been able to get a response 100% of the time by people who I know.  Otherwise, all of this other extra effort has gone relatively unnoticed, except for the fact that it is fun, and nice to keep track of people you might not otherwise converse with.

I sat in on a presentation for Social Business Ideas for Businesses by a consultant named Dave Nelson.  He had some good concept and tools that I had not heard of before, and some that I had.  One of the biggest things I walked out with was this: do one thing and do it well.  This seems to make a lot of sense.  I do not know why I have a plaxo account and a LinkedIn account, both with separate “connection” lists – same goes for Facebook and MySpace, or all of these other accounts.  I don’t even know how many I have any more. The presentation did get me motivated to start/continue this blog, and I have not figured out if this is good or bad.

There are some tools out there that I couldn’t really find a fit for – ning.com was mentioned, but I couldn’t really make a connection with how it could be beneficial; however the weekend after the presentation the service ceased to be free, which tells me two things: a) the company has enough confidence that some people will pay for it, and b) that will not be me at this point. Yammer was another tool that was brought up, but buy in with my colleagues has not been that strong, and the service may be more suited to an office with a mobile sales force.

The point I was glad he started out with was etiquette: all of your content should have personality, interest, and entertainment value (the PIE principal), as well as an added one: authenticity.  Although I don’t think this particular post has high marks for any of this.

In RL (Real Life)

It its core, the concept of social media isn’t really about al off the tools and gadgets and websites – it is about the free flow of conversation – control of information is shifting from the producer to the consumer.  The academic discussion that this has caused about community discussion and constant feedback has also affected how I think about things in the Real World – I am beginning to call my past clients to discuss our projects long after construction is complete and speak with them about the entire experience.  Sometimes the design and construction experience can be extremely stressful, and the stress can magnify as the project gets more personal.  After the dust has settled, creating that dialogue will help us to understand each other – I am particularly interested in how these conversations will go with projects that did not go smoothly.  Too often we complete a project and move on to the next one with little reflection on the past – which is definitely not just limited to my industry.  Some say the art of listening is a lost one – maybe our newfound resources in social media can reverse that trend.

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