Saturday, July 12, 2008

Social Media

Lately I've been researching social media, trying to figure out what good it is outside of kids wanting to show pictures of their latest parties, people showing what they are doing on trips or everyone trying to find a "friend". As I'm sure you know there are several social media sites out there, sites like: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Swurl, Blogger, VisualCV, YouTube, etc... Most do the same thing, some do a bit more. I'll breakdown the sites as I see them:
  1. Facebook - This seems to be fairly well put together, it doesn't have a strong search interface, you can't change the look and feel of the product, which is fine by me (you can do this on MySpace and most of the sites people build are unusable). Facebook is purely for family and friends, you shouldn't be using this to build a business network. You can hook facebook up to items such as blogger, though it doesn't give you the ability to do things like sort your posts, and it seems like you can have only one blog.
  2. MySpace - The search with this is great, but I think everything else is second rate. The advertisements on the pages overtake the screen. The ability to tweak the look and feel of the screen has made most of the sites unreadable (things like white text on pink background). You can also associate music with your site, which is awful, everyone seems to have some junky background music playing
  3. Twitter - I need to play with twitter some more, I'd love to find a business use for it, but outside being able to twit with all my friends, this doesn't make much sense to me. Now if you could develop streams that were business friendly, that would be fantastic for remote development teams who need to be alerted to something ASAP.
  4. LinkedIn - LinkedIn is great I think, but it's for business only. Odd thing about linked in are the people who want to be ranked high by having hundreds or thousands of connections. I think it's useless to link in with these people, since you are then connected with everyone through them (and they don't know most of their connections). If you can manage your LinkedIn site properly, it can be a very valuable tool for you, try not to get into the "I've got more connections than you game", it should be the quality of connections that matter, not the quantity. I believe every professional should be using LinkedIn to keep contacts. The plus for LinkedIn is that in theory as people change jobs, they update their contact information in LinkedIn so you can contact them.
  5. Plaxo - This is an interesting tool, it seems to be a combination of LinkedIn and Facebook. You can segment your content to friends, family, or business. This is great, but it's still another social site to maintain (phew it's getting tyring maintaining all of my sites).
  6. Swurl - This site is supposed to aggregate of all your other sites, though I'm not sure if it's working that way. I've hooked up blogger, twitter, picasa, and youtube. My concern with Swurl is that there isn't much security, if there's anything I want to have private, well with Swurl, it's out there.
  7. Blogger - I think Blogger is pretty decent, it's got a good editor (not great, but it works), it saves regularly and automatically (which is good for any work on the web were items such as browsers crash). You can modify the background HTML, use custom built templates or build your own (build your own is bad in some hands). What it doesn't have is a way to push your information to the world, that would be nice. I've got a couple of ideas about how to do this, but I'm keeping them secret for now ;).
  8. VisualCV - VisualCV allows you to build a visual resume. It's not really a social site, but I think it's the wave of the future. It has some limitations, such as you can't modify the HTML behind the scenes, but overall it's a great site. Everyone should have a VisualCV ready to hand out.
  9. YouTube - For me (actually my daughter) this site is purely for fun, take a funky video and post it up there. In the real world it's been gaining grounds as a place to start your viral marketing. It's been very well received in that world.

My take on Social Sites are that they are great tools for both play and work, and everyone should have something up and remain active, but you need to be careful about what you put up. One example is a coworker called in sick, seems she wasn't feeling good, if you checked her facebook page you would see pictures of the wild party she was attending the night before.

Security is a big issue, you should lock down all of your sites to only friends, there really isn't need for people to know all this information about you. Be careful in linking sites, I think tools like Swurl are cool, but they could cause issues with security. Be aware that in order to contact everyone, you'll most likely need multiple social sites, which means that unless you use something like Swurl, you'll need to update them all (swurl has an excellent timeline feature).

Are there any big winners, I don't think so, there isn't a simple and excellent tool like Google Search for the social media world. Biggest issues are security and having to maintain multiple sites. Great advantages, you can update most sites via an email, so if I go on vacation I can email my blogs in from my phone, I can even include a picture with that (of course I'm a geek, so I have a phone that can send emails and take pictures).

Who should be using these sites? EVERYONE! In my family all my neices/nephews and two of my brothers are on either LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace (I think my 3rd brother should be, but I'm not sure if he'll do it or not).

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