Just How Social is Social Networking?

I am writing an article on Cooperative Intelligence geared to Information Professionals, and it got me to thinking about how social, social networking is. I will focus mostly on LinkedIn and Twitter for now.

In most cases on LinkedIn, it’s a loose connection, and you’ll never hear from that person again unless they want to sell you something, fill jobs or find a job. I notice many people who ask me to connect on LinkedIn end their invitation with, “Let me know how I can help you,” but they don’t tell me what they do, and they haven’t looked at what I do. So it feels kind of phony to me.  However, since I am a LION on LinkedIn, I guess I attract this kind of behavior. I also get a lot of spam from my 1st connections on Linked In, and some don’t provide an option for me to “unsubscribe”.

I just read that 90% of Twitter traffic comes from 10% of the users: this tells me that most of the communication is automated, so how personal can it be? Yet I do connect with many of my pals and meet new people who share my interests on Twitter and we do engage through tweets, albeit with the 140 character limitation. I have found some great people through # searching under relevant categories for what I do such as competitive intelligence, product development and market research. I stay in touch with some of my pals in competitive intelligence, information professionals, and product managers who prefer to communicate via tweets. We shared learnings at SCIP’s 2009 conference in Chicago, and Tweet-ups are increasingly popular.

I like to weave cooperative intelligence into my social networking practices. Cooperative intelligence assumes that you are a giving person without strings attached and that you don’t just give to get. This is often not true on social networks. Many of those who want me to follow them on Twitter, who have huge followings, are selling something that sounds like it’s too good to be true or sell something so awful or irrelevant to what I care about that I am not interested!

The pendulum is swinging back to more traditional marketing for me since I still get more business from word of mouth marketing and referrals from existing customers and friends. Where I do find social networks worthwhile is to find people who might be interested in my services who know someone I know. LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to find people who will talk to you when you need information, which is how I make my living, but I don’t have to “live” on these networks for this to work.

The most relevant social network for competitive intelligence professionals is the CI Ning. I check that out most week days and enjoy the stimulating conversations, the connections and learning.  I believe more people practice cooperative intelligence since the sharing is continuous, and people are not flagrantly in the marketing mode. I imagine this is true for social networks where people share a common discipline, rather than the more generic social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

What are you noticing as social networking is becoming more commonplace? Have you changed your marketing habits lately?

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