The Mystery of Facebook…Not Actually a Mystery at All
We have a client who refers to us as “Digital Aborigines”—a term he borrowed from the book Digital Aboriginal. He talks about our seemingly instinctual use of new media and technology as if it were something people of a certain age group are born with. Upon some investigation, I found an interesting, defining characteristic of this group: whereas an adult might call a digital camera a “digital camera,” Digital Aborigines would simply call it a “camera.” (I have a hunch that another defining characteristic of Digital Aborigines is that they’ve never actually heard the term Digital Aborigines.) Anyway, according to this client, our ease of navigation through online applications such as Facebook also confirms our status.
I tend to think a better explanation is our good, old-fashioned common sense.
I read marketing trades and blogs like a fiend. Yes, I realize this is very uncool. And even more, sometimes I actually walk away from my computer screen (because we Digital Aborigines read everything online) feeling just a little bit dumber for having read the pontifications of so-called experts who think they’ve got their finger on the pulse of this social enigma. This is especially true after reading yet another analysis of THE definitive way to use Facebook (and other social media platforms) for networking purposes. Because we have several clients who want to know the secret of Facebook, and because we’ve been told so many times that such a secret actually does exist, I was determined to figure out what it was and end the conversation once and for all.
One client told me that he was on Facebook purely for business networking opportunities. Fair enough, I told him, but you’ve gotta play it cool. Think of Facebook as a cocktail party. LinkedIn’s going to be your business meeting and Twitter, well, I don’t know if you’re ready for all of that yet.
From here, the next question is always, “Okay, now that I’m on Facebook [or LinkedIn or whatever], how do I turn my connections into new business?” Easy there, tiger.
For a while I’ve been placating this question with thoughtful answers: “Well, you want to make sure you’re giving people a reason to visit your page.” Or, “maybe you should put up useful tips for people so that they know there’s good content over at your place.” And it all kind of made logical sense really until I took a second to think about how I use Facebook. The answer? Casually. I certainly don’t go there to be sold. And to me, networking is no more than talking to new people like normal human beings, so why would it be any different here? It wouldn’t and it isn’t.
I use Facebook a lot. I look at friends’ pictures and, sometimes, the links they post to their blogs or articles they suggest. I revel in the different conversations high school friends are having with one another. Who’s still in our hometown? Who’s left and hit it big? I try to get an idea of what new people I meet are like outside of work (although I’m of the school who thinks you should have one generally consistent personality ). So, when I see a note on a friend’s page that says, “Hey John, Glad to see ya on Facebook. Can’t wait to network with you!” it kind of creeps me out. I mean, is this really how people interact with eachother in real life? I can’t wait to network with you? Come on.
For the same reason you don’t tell your blind date that you’re really quite desperate to get into a committed relationship because that biological clock of yours is tickin’, you don’t admit your sales motives to unsuspecting casual acquaintances on social networks. The bottom line is that this type of interaction blocks the flow of authenticity of an otherwise smooth-running operation. Sure, you’re being honest, but there’s a time and a place for all of that. Even honesty can be kind of icky sometimes. Especially if it reveals you as a kind of social outcast who doesn’t have a lot more to contribute to a conversation than work.
I guess this is where our Digital Aboriginal status comes in. Or, rather, our subscribers-to-common-sense status. We’ve realized that the secret to using Facebook is no more than this: Use Facebook how it’s supposed to be used. Post pictures. Chat with friends. Share links to blog posts–whether personal blogs or the ones you write for work (in fact, I’m going to post this one as soon as I hit publish). These things tell your story. They all work together to paint a picture of a multi-faceted human being rather than of a one-trick pony (or dare I say workhorse?).
Trust me, people will be more likely to want to see what you’re up to if what you’re up to isn’t selling them something. They’ll discover what you do for a living and, by golly, if they’ve got a need for the stuff you’re schilling, they’ll let you know because you’ve proven you might just be an interesting person to work with.
That darned common sense. It gets ya every time.
Don’t agree? Just this week we got a new client using Facebook how it’s supposed to be used. Fancy that.