I recently attended the PRSSA Northwest Networking regional activity where keynote speaker Kyle Warnick delivered a presentation about the importance of networking. Even though he only devoted a few minutes of his presentation to social media sites, he did say that we need to take advantage of the free networking tools that are available to the general public. In fact, if you are not taking advantage of social media, you’re missing out on one of the simpleist ways to network.
So the question is this: how do we use different social media sites to create and maintain relationships? The answer, of course, depends on the social media site you choose to use.
First of all, there’s nothing that can replace physical interaction. If you’re looking to make a contact, it’s easier to establish a working relationship with by meeting them face to face. Chances are that you will not be able to replicate the same sort of relationship with any social media outlet.
However, you can create relationships in the blogosphere by reading and reacting to other people’s blogs, as epitomized by (the controversial) De-conversion.com website, where readers regularly discuss blogposts with authors on a day-to-day basis. It’s a good way to become informally introduced to others, but it doesn’t have the same dynamic as a physical meeting.
Facebook and Myspace are fairly ineffective for creating meaningful connections, but they are excellent mediums for maintaining existing connections. Facebook is a little more intuitive than Myspace at this, however, considering the popularity of group features, pre-existing networks, and, most recently, the addition of Facbeook chat.
With Twitter, you can both maintain and create contacts, but on a lesser level than conventional blogging or social networking sites. Twitter lets your contacts know what you are about on a day-to-day basis. It’s acceptable Twitter etiquette to follow people you don’t know, but try not to have a following/being followed by ratio of more than 2:1.
LinkedIn has set itself up as a social media site for professionals, which makes contacts on LinkedIn have a little more social capital than those on Myspace, Facebook, or even in the blogosphere. However, LinkedIn has comparatively fewer capabilities for interaction.
There are other social media sites on the internet that perform various functions, but the essentials are a blog, Myspace or Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Of course, if there’s another site that you feel is absolutely essential for public relations practitioners to have, or if you disagree or have a different perspective on how a social media site I’ve listed can be used differently, please feel free to leave feedback.