Social Networking: From Facebook to LinkedIn and Beyond

Today I am presenting the third in a monthly series of adult education social media workshops through Rochester Community and Technical College. The first was an introductory overview session, and in the second we took a deeper look at Twitter: Social Media’s Gateway Drug.

Here are my slides. Note that many of the slides contain links to the referenced Web sites.

Anonymity is the Enemy of Community

In a conversation last week, I found the phrase that is the title of this post tumbling out of my mouth, and so I thought I must have heard it somewhere. Couldn’t have been original.

So of course I did a Google search to see who had said it. It turns out Google’s autocomplete function suggested “anonymity is the enemy of civility” and linked to an article in Fast Company by Seth Godin.

Many of my best ideas are probably inspired at least subconsciously by something I’ve heard or read from Seth. If by some chance you’re not familiar with his work, get a sampler.

So at least the ghost of Godin likely inspired my observation of the enmity between anonymity and community.

My formulation came up in a discussion of our early Mayo Clinic experience with our Facebook page. In the first year of its existence, from late 2007 to January 2009, we had exactly one comment I would consider negative, out of a little more than 100 overall wall posts. These were the earliest days of organizations or brands being on Facebook, and so the comment volume was light.

Of course back then we had only about 3,000 of what were then called fans, and now we have nearly 100 times as many “likers” of our page.

I see three main explanations behind the high percentage of positive comments on our Facebook page:

  1. People are generally happy with their Mayo Clinic experience. Our surveys show high patient satisfaction and willingness to recommend, which one would expect to see carried into online word of mouth, too.
  2. People who like you are more disposed to say nice things. Especially if they have already “Liked” you in the Facebook sense. Hard to “Like” and then turn around and flame.
  3. Most importantly, on Facebook people use their real names, and their friends see what they’re doing. So unlike the snarky flamethrowers hiding behind screen names on typical newspaper Web sites, they have some natural inhibitions to antisocial behavior. They’re less prone to comments that would disrupt the community vibe.

Anonymity is like alcohol. (Now there’s one for which I think I can claim originality, notwithstanding any relation to the famous 12-step program.) Alcohol removes inhibitions, which makes people tend to behave in a way they later regret when they sober up and have to face the consequences of bad behavior. Likewise, anonymity makes people more likely to be irresponsible in their online speech.

In the pre-Facebook era, the Internet was a lot like a drinking establishment. Not like Cheers, where everyone knew your name, but more like a rowdy biker bar with heated arguments, name-calling and the electronic equivalent of fisticuffs.

So my thesis is that online anonymity is almost never helpful, and that the “real names” movement essentially started by Facebook has been an important factor in making the Internet safe, civil and more community-oriented.

What do you think? What are the exceptions? When does it make sense to allow people to not use their real names in an online forum? When do other needs trump the need for community?

When Googling isn’t Good Enough

Google and other search engines have indisputably made our lives richer and easier, which is why Googling has become a verb (Microsoft could have chosen a better name for its search service, because Binging just doesn’t sound right.) Type in a phrase, find the information you need. Simple. Fast.

But what if the answer to your question doesn’t show up on the first page of search engine results?

That’s where the power of social networks can help. Real people helping you in real time.

I had such an experience earlier this week, when I noticed that the Calendar app on my iPhone was no longer there. I must have inadvertently deleted it. I went to iTunes and looked for it to reinstall, and couldn’t find it. I went to the iTunes store and searched for Calendar and got the opportunity to buy some other apps, but couldn’t get the one that came with my phone.

So then I searched on Google to no avail, or at least not quick enough avail to provide the instant gratification to which I (and I’ll bet most of you) have become accustomed. I clicked through a few of the search results and got nothing that told me what I needed to do.

So I went to Yammer.

Yammer is an internal social network limited to people who share your email domain. In my case, at Mayo Clinic, it’s a network of everyone with email addresses ending in

So I went to the iPhone User Group in our Yammer network and posed the question. Here’s the whole conversation:

Start to finish, I got the answer in two minutes! And yes, it worked perfectly.

OK…so Jamie used Google to find the answer. Maybe he’s just better at phrasing his queries, and there is nothing wrong with Google.

But my point still holds: a social network can connect you with people who can help you find your answers.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Yammer curriculum section on SMUG.

When You Absolutely, Positively Need to Reach Someone Quickly

In the last week, I’ve needed to get in touch with a few people via email about a social media project. For a few of them, I was missing email addresses so needed to contact the participants first by some other means to ask them to send their email addresses.

For Contact #1, I knew we were connected on LinkedIn, so I decided to send him a message through that service on Friday, Dec. 30.

For the next three, I checked first to see whether they were following me on Twitter, and sent them direct tweets instead.

Finally, yesterday, after having not heard from #1, I sent a direct tweet.

Here is the table of my results:

I realize this isn’t a large enough sample to be statistically meaningful. I also realize that my LinkedIn message was sent on a Friday before a holiday weekend, so it probably wasn’t the fairest test. But I wasn’t exactly fair to Twitter, either. For participants 2-4, I sent the tweets in the mid-to-late evening, possibly after some had gone to bed (they were all an hour ahead of me in the Eastern time zone). Number 3 responded at 4 a.m. I sent a follow-up to Number 4 the next afternoon, and this time the response was less than 2 hours.

Still, these results do fit with what I perceive as my experience in the relative responsiveness of Twitter vs. LinkedIn.

I think it relates to the way most people interact with the platforms. I don’t have statistics to support this (if you have some, please put them in the comments), but it seems people tend to use LinkedIn through its Web site. When you send someone a message in LinkedIn, therefore, people see it when they visit the site, or possibly through an email notification.

On Twitter, people can get notifications of new messages in those ways, but also tend to use smart phone clients or get text message alerts. This makes it much more likely they will get the notice quickly, wherever they are.

I’m not hacking on LinkedIn; it obviously has capabilities Twitter doesn’t, and you need to use different tools depending on what you want to accomplish. For soliciting and organizing professional recommendations, for instance, LinkedIn is clearly superior.

I have the LinkedIn iPhone app (although I haven’t used it much) and it probably offers push notifications as the Twitter app does (again, I welcome confirmation in the comments). My point isn’t that people couldn’t respond as quickly on LinkedIn as they do on Twitter, it’s just that in my experience they don’t.

How about you?

When you need to reach someone quickly, and if you don’t have the old-school contact information such as email or cell phone (and yes, having grown up with a single land line and snail mail, I realize the irony of calling email and cell phone “old school”), what do you find is the best social platform to use?

Experimenting with BuddyPress for the SMUGgle Community

BuddyPress is plug-in for WordPress blogs that enables social networking.

You will see some changes here on SMUG as I experiment with the BuddyPress functionality. For instance, you will now see tabs for Activity, Members, Groups and Forums. And yes, I realize that the tab structure is a little out-of-whack, but I’m working on that.

BuddyPress seems it could be a powerful, customizable community solution, whereas the SMUG group in Facebook is limited and can’t be changed.

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