Social networking tools get us communicating with real people again. CRAIG REARDON
By Craig Reardon
An oft-quoted concern about the growing trend towards online communication is that real-live personal interaction is suffering. Many are worried that as we use a myriad of devices to communicate with one another, the old fashioned norm of meeting and talking in the flesh is going the way of the typewriter and leading us down some dark robotic path devoid of real people.
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And to some extent that is true. The recent obesity epidemic is a real symptom of spending way too much time being entertained by devices instead of getting outside and throwing a ball or frisbee like we used to.
Come to think of it my waistline could do with a bit more frisbee throwing right now!
But as written previously, the jury has been out on how much some time-consuming web 2.0 offerings can offer time-poor SME operators and managers.
Cloak and dagger personas proliferate
For example, it’s very difficult to have a serious business relationship with a DarthVader25 or BadGirl74 etc of other social networking offerings.
And I have to say too that when it comes to buying on eBay and its ilk, all the positive previous buyer feedback in the world doesn’t remove the slightly queasy feeling of doing business with SuperSally, whether she’s a powerseller or not.
And keeping staff focused on their work instead of the various web 2.0 distractions is a genuine concern.
But at least in one corner of cyberspace, the notion of making real, valuable connections with living breathing people is growing apace.
Many of the same social networking tools that are being accused of robbing us of real life human contact are in fact going a long way towards putting us back in touch with real people with whom rewarding, real life relationships are being developed.
Connecting with real people
Unlike some social networking, virtual reality and public auction websites where one’s true identity is mysteriously disguised, the more business-oriented social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook are putting real people with real identities in touch with each other around the globe for mutual benefit.
Personal attributes like employment history, qualifications and personal interests that many business networking sites promote provide members with a refreshing feeling of communicating with a real human instead of a figment of someone’s imagination.
And the business benefits such a development provides are many and varied.
Since I’ve been spending more time (but importantly not too much!) exploring connections with current and former colleagues, joining discussions of various groups and inviting others into my network, I’ve made some very valuable contacts that I have no doubt will assist my business.
Think of it as business networking on steroids!
And having more and more people “hear” about what you can do for them can only be good for business.
Promoting word of mouse
In fact in the process of writing this blog I have been developing relationships with some connections in the US that could well lead to the first international order we have had for our services. I’ll keep you posted on this development.
The other important factor these communities provide is good old human interaction – albeit via keyboard. Many “SOHO” workers bemoan the lack of “watercooler” conversation their employed counterparts get in larger organisations. But comments and discussion threads posted by many groups provides a welcome brief diversion and feeling of community belonging.
Of course with more and more people using and joining social networks – particularly among under 30s, your own involvement and experimentation in them means that you can keep in touch with some of the fundamental communication tools your markets are now using on a daily basis.
That makes you better informed when planning your next communication with them.
Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au