Sunday, November 28, 2010

The difference between blogs, forums and social networks - revisited

An overview of some of the differences between blogs, forums and social networks from the perspective of a Career Development Professional, for those who requested it.

Facebook

Gets some dreadful press, but you have the choice to be as public or private as you want. It's YOUR choice.

Having read the horror stories gleefully presented in the media, I was extremely hesitant about joining Facebook (as well as Twitter and having a blog) - the possibility of identity fraud is very real, but hopefully not as common as the media portray.  (I haven't done any research on this, so if anyone has some statistics I'd be interested in a ratio. Given that the members of Facebook are said to be the equivalent as the population of a largish country that statistic would be interesting.)

Many people have been alienated by the demonising of social networking in the media, and I believe they're missing out on what can be a relatively safe and interesting medium, personally, and possibly professionally.

If you take similar (but different!) precautions as you would in the world in general, mostly things will be fine.

The same as you wouldn't give a stranger your personal details, you don't do it online. That alone is a real challenge when you're presenting a professional profile, and one which I'm still grappling with. How do you let potential clients know you're keen to do business with them, while simultaneously keeping a comfortable level of anonymity?

I mostly use Facebook as a mini postcard style of communication with family and close friends, and it's 'invite only'.  It's a quick and convenient way to connect, and is used quite differently to email. The messages are brief, you can attach photos and friends are able to comment. It's great for feeling connected when you are away from home, just to check in and see what your friends are up to. It's a much more abbreviated form of communication.

At the CDAA conference in April a number of members in the education sector were extremely cautious about Facebook, focusing on instances of intimidation, bullying and sexual predators as relating to young students.

Please remember the issues young people face are different from those of a mature professional with a bit of life experience. It's your choice who you 'friend' or not, and who you give personal details out to, as well as how public or private you want to be.

I've set up a 'Professional' Facebook page accessible by anyone (I think), but haven't yet embraced it fully, I'm not convinced it's worthwhile, but I've got an open mind there. If you can share any ideas about effectiveness and how to use it to advantage that'd be good.

Jeremiah Owyang, has an excellent explanation of Forums, Blogs and Social Networks. Click on his name to read the full article.

Excerpts with some commentary follows - but I give full credit to Jeremiah Owyang for the main ideas which appear in inverted commas.

Blogs

"Blogs are like a keynote speech where the speaker (blogger) is in control of the discussion, but allows questions and comments from the audience" (the reader). Some will allow, and reply to your comments, others don't.

"Blogs may be journals often authored by one individual, and sometimes teams." They may be purely visual, showcasing photos or paintings, poetry, haiku, craft or science. You name it, it'll be out there somewhere. Support groups for people with illnesses or for those wanting to improve their writing. Blogs about blogs. The weird, the wonderful and the serious. Some fun ones also encourage a lot of interaction and set challenges for readers who contribute either for pleasure or the chance of a prize.

By no means are all blogs written by navel gazing neer-do-wells with nothing better to do with their time. I'm not sure where this myth came from, but I heard it many times, and it's still alive and well - and very wrong. As with so many other things in life, look around till you find something you like (whether for intellectual stimulation, creativity or to be challenged by; it's worth the time spent).

Blogs may be "used to talk with the marketplace" (or clients) "and to join the conversation that existing external bloggers may be having".

Social networks

"Social networks are like topic tables at a conference luncheon". The kind of conference where signs "invite people to sit and join others of like interest". "Social networks allow members to organize around a person's relationships or interests" - the community can become very close knit, meeting both on-line and in person. People who know (or want to meet each other) will connect by a variety of common interests.

An example is Crazy Guy on a Bike where forums, journals, reviews and articles all vie for attention. "These are great tools to get people of like interest to connect to each other and share information". However, they require a dedicated person to moderate comments, and generally keep an eye on things as everyone has a more or less equal status, and no one person is the author.

Twitter


I've made a couple of tweets, but couldn't see how it would be useful on a professional level. At the moment, I feel I don't have time to add another thing to my day.

Professionally though, am I missing something obvious?   I'd love to hear from anyone using Twitter: How do you use it in your business? Is it useful? How? What do you tweet? Who is interested? Can it attract business or do you use it to build your profile?

.......................

It seems like I'm not the only person asking this question about Twitter. It was raised on a Career Development forum while I was editing this post, and was discussed in the Mind Tools newsletter I dipped in to this afternoon. Even though the Mind Tools article is interesting, it seems more relevant to larger businesses, and I'm still unsure how Twitter would be used by CD practitioners.

To tweet or not, that is the question.


Stephen Fry has written an extensive piece about how he uses Twitter.  I suspect I'm going to need to revisit this  topic again in the not too distant future.


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