We're continuing the conversation on social networking and user reputation with Trisha Miller of Topical Juice and Tech Kitten. Yesterday we asked you -- how open should we be? Isn't there a point at which we lose control by being "too open"?
I would be interested in your take as we've been talking about companies opening up to customers and the public at large, yet there may be times when less open is better -- dealing with internal alignment, gaining clarity on purpose and vision are two examples.
Valeria Maltoni: Can we change our mind? Amidst the being careful and consistent with our image and opinions online, how do we maintain flexibility to incorporate learning in our thinking? Recently Hugh at Gapingvoid declared that it's not about the message anymore. His take is that in the new era of conversation there is a vast market for social gestures. True, yet in thinking about it within the context of this dialogue, message is still relevant. The signal is still important to cut through the noise.
Funny, I learned to be selective about being open in off line friendships -- what people do not know about you won't hurt you in the end. And that is because it's really hard to be with the other dispassionately, without judgment. Especially in this age of attention deficit and time crunches. It is rare to meet people who take the time. It's the same online. It's tempting to get personal and rash about ideas... yet ideas are just that.
My take is that social networks are launching pads. The deeper relationships, if any, come from working together and other off line experiences. What is your take?
Trisha Miler: I agree that social networks are just the launching pad -- to really connect with others the conversation needs to move beyond the public forum, offline or via email, IM, or VOIP when the distance is great. Many of the online business relationships that I have, as well as a few personal ones, began as conversations in public spaces. I have profound respect, and in some cases even affection, for some of these people, whom I would never have had the opportunity to know had it not been for social networks.
As far as changing our minds about our message, while I agree with Hugh that the market for social gestures is vast, I believe that every social gesture does indeed send a message, and yes it is still
relevant. But consistency does not mean inflexibility, in fact growth requires flexibility. As we grow we change, so it's to be expected that over time our message will change. What stays consistent is the underlying principles that we live by that shape our values that form the context of our message. Values can, and often do, change as we age and learn, but it's rare that one's core principles change.
What I would like to know is, how do we ensure that our online communities do not lure us into ignoring our offline communities? When does focus become addiction? And if Support Groups spring up, will they be online groups or offline?
Valeria Maltoni: That's very timely that you would bring up support groups. The husband of a former colleague of mine suffers from a condition that afflicts a good number of people and she found great support and resources from people going through the same online. She would have taken a lot longer to find so much off line as there are only so many hours in a day and she needs to work as well. Online is much more convenient to her schedule and was a launching pad for better connections in the physical world. In her case, virtual led to help in a real sense.
So where does this all leave us? Are the two worlds just two expressions of this one world? How is social media helping us lead better lives? What do you see in the future of these tools?
Trisha Miller: Without question our offline and online lives are two sides of the same coin. Right now it's still easy to keep them separate, but that will change as our online reputation becomes so strong that it overlaps our offline environment. There is no separation for those who are already famous (think celebs who communicate with their fans on MySpace, print journalists who have their own blogs, etc.). Eventually that will be true for all of us.
Social Media can help us lead better lives only if we can recognize and harness that power, which many are already doing. We can use it to promote issues we’re passionate about, to educate others, to throw a spotlight on injustice, to encourage others to participate in global conversations. The story of your colleague's husband is a perfect example -- in an offline community he might have felt isolated, but an online community opened an avenue to resources and support he might otherwise never have found. All it takes is one person to put up a site saying "hey this is my issue -- is there anyone else like me?". That's the true power of social media -- one person making a difference and creating a community.
Ultimately over the next decade or two I see social networking evolving in only one of two directions - merging into one humongous community, in much the way that the internet itself started out as numerous bulletin boards and news groups and grew into what we now know as the “world wide web”, or disappearing completely as self-publication (developing and hosting one’s own online profile) becomes easier and more ubiquitous. It will become too much of a burden to maintain multiple online profiles in order to be available to everyone, so eventually social networking will have to change dramatically in order to survive and still serve the needs of all.
Plaxo is already offering a way to keep the Pulse of your information. Will this take off? Have your tried it?