The Social (Network) Butterfly

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Published:  May 21, 2010
The Social (Network) Butterfly

The recently released 2010 Social Media Report confirms what many of us have assumed for quite awhile: we are increasingly living – and revealing – more and more of our lives online and interacting with more people via social networking channels.

Whether it’s LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or God-knows-what-else-is-just-around-the-corner, the Nielsen report found 9 million Australians now interact via social networks. The report also found Twitter usage grew by a whopping 400 per cent in 2009 and that similarly high growth is likely in 2010.

There were some interesting findings within the report, pointing to how we are increasingly sharing ever more of ourselves online:

  • Content sharing is the most popular activity
  • 4 in 5 Australian Internet users have shared a photo
  • Nearly 75 per cent of Australians read a wiki
  • 2 in 5 Australians interact with companies via social networks

The writing is on the (web) wall, it would appear. We’re online, we’re interacting and we’re sharing more content with more people. Everyone’s doing anything they want, and only good things can come of it, right?

WRONG! You could write an e-book about the spectacular gaffes that have been committed by social networking boffins; the only irony is that, rather than appearing in books, such gaffes inevitably break on the social networking sites in question and go viral in a matter of hours.

It’s becoming a tired old warning, but every week we’re reminded why it’s so very important to guard against what we say and do online. Think of yourself as your own personal ‘brand’; whatever you do online then – be it comment on someone’s status, post a photo or video or simply ‘like’ something – contributes, either positively or negatively, to that brand.

For those creatives utilising social media channels to build relationships, seek out contacts and, God forbid, find a job, it’s interesting to hear the differing opinions on what constitutes online ‘protocol’; it’s an extremely grey area. ‘Brand you’ might not be brand new, but it’s becoming more and more importance in cyberspace, where a misjudged comment can take on a life of its own in no time, often with unintended – and catastrophic – results.

For example, is posting a tweet to a potential client appropriate or too colloquial? Is a direct email, a message sent through LinkedIn or an old-fashioned phone call more suitable? These are the questions we must ask ourselves as we connect with more people in more ways than ever before. We’re spoilt for choice, but which is the right choice?

As a creative job seeker, are you being noticed online? It’s a hard question to answer and one that isn’t quite as clear-cut as the number of followers one might have on Twitter. One might have an online folio available for viewing on www.carbonmade.com, an active Twitter account, hundreds of friends on Facebook and even their own site, but if that same person isn’t pounding the pavement, attending networking events and meeting people face-to-face, all that effort online can have little impact on one’s job prospects.

Contrary to the spin of the social media ‘gurus’ (read: bandwagon jumpers) and ‘masters’ popping up on Twitter these days, online communication – while all the buzz at present – will never replace effective face-to-face communication. Online social networks are just another tool in an ever-expanding toolkit that can be used to one’s advantage, or disadvantage. A creative can put hours and hours into building up a following on Facebook or Twitter, but is that effort going to be at the expense of real relationships, those meaningful ones developed over cups of coffee in cafes as opposed to in java chat rooms where emotions are relayed using acronyms and funny symbols? ;) LOL!

Your online brand is definitely important in terms of expanding your list of contacts and cultivating and developing relationships, but your offline brand is even more important and where, as a jobseeker, you’re more likely to find career success. Think of it like this: how many ‘friends’ have you got on Facebook that you never talk to, never email and never have any contact with? Are they really friends and valuable contacts, or just acquaintances? Would you notice if they ‘de-friended’ you?  I’m guessing not.

Au contraire, if you had regular face-to-face or phone contact with a person, chances are you would notice a sudden halt in communication. Social networking is here to stay and the above figures point towards it becoming even more prevalent within our daily lives, but it’s passive; real communication is proactive.

The distinction between effective social networking and social timewasting is one not so easily made in an increasingly online world. We must be careful; putting too much effort into one’s ‘second’ online life’ can have unfortunate results on the first – and more important offline – existence.



About Tim McNamara: As a fellow creative with a background in journalism and copywriting, Tim has been with Aquent Brisbane for two years. Specialising in print creative and digital new media freelance placements, Tim is a regular contributor to the Aquent Blog and writes regular columns for Desktop and Marketing Magazine. He can be contacted via http://www.aquent.com.au/go/TimMcNamara

Image Copyright www.nytimes.com

One Response

  1. Right on Tim! There also seems to be the attitude that if you work in a creative industry, tweeting etc. for work-related matters is okay.

    Mumsy is constantly fretting over whether I have a pic of me skulling a pint of beer in my facebook profile. But I lock that thing down tight, yo! I recommend making your profile very private for everyone – career prospects aside, do you really want that creepy kid from high school staring at a picture of your present self?

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