January 04, 2012

LinkedIn and Twitter and Email, Oh My!

Title slide bg wide
Our generation is blessed and plagued by the phenomenon of social media. Gone are the days when contacting someone consisted of a snail-mail delivery and a chance encounter. Now we have countless forums to get in touch and interact with one another, and more keep popping up. With all of these new networking devices we are more connected as a global community than ever before. Sending a message to a business partner in China is not only feasible, but as simple as clicking a button. However, the confusion arises when there are multiple buttons you could potentially click. While the technologies and means of communication our generation take for granted are beyond our grandparents' wildest dreams of ever grasping, we too must stop and ponder their correct and appropriate uses.

After a great first date, do you text or do you call? When it's a friend's birthday will they feel forgotten if you don't write on their facebook wall, send a text, and hand deliver a card? What does a facebook poke really mean? These are all valid questions to contemplate considering an infraction could mean social despair. Okay, maybe that is a bit dramatic, but in all honesty different social networking forums give off different unwritten messages and knowing when and how to use each one can make or break a business and personal interaction. However, considering Contactually's trajectory, let's just focus on how not to commit professional suicide through misuse of the three key social networking sites for businesses: Twitter, email, and LinkedIn.

There is unfortunately not a lot of hard evidence clarifying how to evaluate and use our varying communication and collaborative tools. However, taking a look at their underlying purposes can be a good place to start.

Twitter: A current events information-sharing portal that allows you to connect with and track public streams of short updates that you find interesting, as well as post your own.

LinkedIn: A professional network for staying in touch and connecting with accomplished and potentially career-furthering individuals.

Email: Means of exchanging digital messages over the Internet.

Right off the bat it is clear that LinkedIn and E-mail allow for private message delivery while Twitter is public, so consider that before you tag a colleague in a Tweet. Delving further, each site has its own purpose and means of operation. LinkedIn should be used for creating and expanding your professional network. It puts you in contact with a potential employer, business partner or resource, and allows for surface interaction. When using LinkedIn you should always mean business. On the other hand, Twitter is a more personal networking arena. You can still be professional and utilize it to further your career, but by showing your human side. Twitter is a social dialogue where personality can and should shine through, while LinkedIn is purely business oriented and should be kept professional. All in all, never post about the latest jaw-dropping episode of Dexter on your LinkedIn account. Email is a whole other story. It not only allows you to send direct and specific questions to specific people, but it also stores these conversations for easy reference. It is not a setting for "selling" yourself and allowing strangers to get to know you professionally (LinkedIn) or personally (Twitter). Instead it is the platform to use when you already know a person and have a significant reason to contact them.

Hopefully this clarifies some of the facets of social networking. In our Internet age, it can start to feel like a treacherous jumble of social media outlets exist. The important thing is to remember why each medium was created and, in turn, to stick to its correct form of usage. Let's not forget that there is something to be said for the simplicity of face-to-face communication, which social media unfortunately has the side effect of diminishing. Whenever possible, communicate directly! This is the tell-tale way to ensure that messages and meanings do not get misconstrued. However utilizing Twitter, LinkedIn, and Email correctly and to their full capacity can be detrimental to the formation and success of your career in our current day and age. So make sure you fully understand the context intent when you sign up for a new social networking resource site.