Meaningful Exchanges and Ambivalent Networkers

Jaap and I started an interesting and ongoing conversation yesterday about the potential uses and impacts of social/professional networking sites. We pretty much agreed that the value added of using them to enhance/expand our communications efforts may be minimal. We also agreed (I think we agreed, correct me if we didn't) that the value lost by not having some presence on these sites may be substantial.   

I was struck by this line in the article Wendy shared: "many short contacts may leave the user wanting deeper, more meaningful exchanges." I think that we could and should leverage these sites smartly to do exactly that: leave the user wanting deeper, more meaningful exchanges. Where do those exchanges happen? For us, they happen exactly where we want them to happen: our amazing forums and our more amazing conferences.

At Alliance this year, for instance, I was thrilled to be able to sit down with people (like Wendy) face-to-face after having Twittered/Facebooked/Linkedin with them throughout the year. Likewise, I really missed seeing people (like Jaap) who were not there, but I was able to stay connected to him via Twitter (real time) as the conference happened.

Social networking online can never replace the richness of working with someone face-to-face. It can and does enhance and extend that interaction, strengthen community and collaboration, and provide a certain efficiency of communication.

As we see these networks grow (Facebook is the 5th largest 'country' in the world now) and as we see the HEUG's mission extend globally, we may want to consider how these networks can help us reach our members. What do you all think? Fire away in the comments.

5 Comments
1 Like

Full agreement!

April 9, 2009 10:43 AM by Jaap van Reijendam
Yes, first of all, that was indeed what we talked about yesterday. Social networking isn't going away. And by using it to put up sign-posts / teasers for our global, expanding community to find where they can have meaningful interaction with each other, we can enrich their experience without necessarily trying to put that interaction on those networking sites directly....

Representing the younger generations...

April 10, 2009 02:36 PM by Paula Love
I think that you've got a pretty good concept here of how these networking sites and systems are first of all, like you said, not going away. And how they can be beneficial. My opinion, coming from the younger generation of tweeters and facbookers, is that it is a great tool to be used and taken advantage of. I think that there are definitely going to be those who are reluctant to get into them, and those who find no use for them, but then again, those people are not going to be affected whether they exist or not. Personally I love to use twitter to get brief updates on topics I am interested, be that from the HEUG, or other companies/people. If it was something I wanted to know more about, I would then look into it further for that deeper connection that is mentioned. I think the most important factor in using these technologies though is to have the information to back it up whether it be on your website, or by having people available to connect with if someone did come looking for more meaningful exchanges.

Definitely Ambivalent (if such an oxymoron is even possible)

April 15, 2009 12:24 PM by Michele Thibodeau
I've been discussing some of these issues in a series of emails, and stated the following: "how is a person to keep up on all of these? I am so “with it” it’s scary, and am now on Twitter and Facebook and IM and HEUG tells me about Alliance 2010 blogs and President blogs and apparently they’re setting up a blog for each PAG.  

 

So, I go to Facebook to be harassed by invitations and see what people are up to in general (and what their favorite ______ is), to Twitter to see what people are up to that moment, I IM back and forth for when email is just too slow, then I check Metalink 3 for cases, the listservs for what problems people have, then into HEUG Online to see Issue Tracker for issues, and blog pages to see what thoughts Stan and Ted and some others are thinking, then to my PAG listserv for messages but my PAG blog for PAG “thoughts”.  Meanwhile, I think my boss would like me to do my job at some point. "

 In Paula's comment she says "those people are not going to be affected whether they [the social networking tools] exist or not". But is this true? What if I don't keep up on the listservs? I miss out on important problems with bundles. What if I don't read the blogs? Sure, I might just miss some tidbit about how fun the reception was at Alliance 09, but what if my PAG Chair puts some important meeting notification there instead of sending an email? 

 I heard after the fact that there was some sort of small institution gathering at Alliance 09; was this communicated in a blog? Texted? I tried to keep up on the HEUG Online site while there...

I do think people feel overwhelmed by all of this and while they can drop out/not read any given tweet, blog, IM, etc. I think there's the worry that they'll miss out on that truly important one, so they feel obligated to keep up...then they feel overwhelmed and on it goes.

In response to Michele...

April 15, 2009 12:37 PM by Paula Love
I definitely agree that people feel overwhelmed. I use all sorts of these websites and devices on a regular basis and even I sometimes feel like it's a traffic jam on the information super highway. What I was trying to express in my comment was that I think it is our responsibility to make sure that this information is being provided via other outlets as well. I see networks and websites like Twitter and blogs to be additional resources that we can use to spark an interest and to get people to go looking more information. I don't think they should ever completely replace human contact, or conventional methods of communications. Unfortunately there are so many occasions in which people are missing out on information because they don't have time, or the desire to surf the web. Which is why I think we need to focus on disproving the notion that "You are a twit if you don't tweet!"

 

 Let's use these tools as exactly that, a tool to help us do a job better. Not to replace the job we do now entirely.

In response to Michelle and Paula . . .

April 15, 2009 01:57 PM by Ted Simpson
I feel Michelle's pain acutely. We are really wrestling with this. If we flood the various networks with full information (which may be the best option) we not only risk an information overload -- like spam on all channels -- but we spend all of our time updating all of the networks, which seems like a lot of effort for an all-volunteer organization like HEUG. If we don't try that and instead stick to the HEUG Online knitting (probably the next best option) we risk missing key audiences. If we dabble inconsistently (probably the worst option and pretty much where we are today) we risk miscommunication.

Jaap and I discussed developing a more strategic plan of attack for this problem. While we may not hit every network, we can at least take a consistent and standardized approach that we can then communicate to our various audiences. Comments like Michelle's are crucial to developing a solid communications plan -- so THANK YOU Michelle (and Paula, and Jaap, and . . .).

I am not convinced that anyone has this completely figured out. My plan is to work hard to figure out what makes the most sense for HEUG members and go with what will be an imperfect but thoughtful approach.

(Side note on the Small Institution meeting -- it was put together by Oracle and the details were ironed out only just before the conference started. I think most of us who attended found out about it the 'old-fashioned' way: personal emails, phone calls, and word of mouth. Next year it will be better!)
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