Sunday, June 27, 2010

What’s Social Networking Got To Do With ME?

Maybe you’re someone who hasn’t drank the Facebook “kool-aid” and have been ignoring co-workers invitations to join LinkedIn. To you, the concept of Twitter is something foreign and begs the question “why should I care what you just ate for breakfast”? Well, there’s a lot more to social networking and sites like these are being used by organizations to help strengthen relationships and actually generate revenue (gasp). But, what if you’re still not convinced. You may be saying to yourself, “what’s social networking got to do with ME?” Let me share a story that may put some perspective on this question.

This week I’ve got the pleasure of speaking to the Idaho and Utah Bankers Associations at their joint annual convention in Sun Valley, Idaho. While I’m certainly looking forward to the venue (never been there before), the topic of conversation will be about social networking and the concept of online reputation management. When talking with a friend during a recent visit to Chicago last month, I was telling him about my upcoming presentation and he said “have I got a story for you”.

My friend is active on social networking sites and posts updates to his “wall” on Facebook and has a nice profile on Linkedn. In case you’re not aware, one of the features of social networking sites is their ability to “magically” recommend people that you may know who are also in the system, but maybe not connected to you yet. Well, my friend was logged in one day and got a suggestion for a former college buddy to connect in LinkedIn. Great, he thought, it would be good to re-connect and see how he’s doing…

When my friend visited his buddy’s LinkedIn profile, at first blush it looked like any other LinkedIn profile. It listed his name, current employer, education history and a few other pieces of information that seemed normal. But, after a closer look under the details of his job, it had listed as one of his responsibilities “sleeping with coworkers”! Huh???

Something here didn’t seem quite right, so my friend called his college buddy and said “what’s up with your LinkedIn profile?” The response was “what do you mean, I don’t have a profile in LinkedIn,” or so he thought. After a few screenshots and some “adult language” they had surmised that his disgruntled ex-wife got in and created a fake LinkedIn profile and was using it as a way to “get back” for their recent separation and was attempting to drag his name through the mud through this professional networking site.

This gentleman held a very prominent position at a publicly traded company. But like many busy executives, simply had not taken the time, nor really saw the benefit of being online and having a LinkedIn profile. However, it’s hard to say how many people had gone online to view his profile and saw this. While he decided that he wasn’t ready for social networking, the reality was that it found him (and not in a good way). Fortunately, after several e-mail messages and a lot of personal effort, he was able to get the phony profile removed and restore his good name.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Well, there are several but I think the biggest lesson to be learned is that even if you think social networking is not right for YOU, the luxury of not paying any attention to this evolution is quickly becoming a thing of the past. We saw in this example how it could have had a personal impact on one individual, what about some of the business implications? Any business that works with the public (and that’s most of us these days) likely has a handful of customers that may feel you are not doing as much as you can to make them happy.

While in the past we had to worry about “word of mouth”, unless it was something really bad, chances are it didn’t spread too far (or fast). Now, with the power of social networking sites, blogs and online review sites like Google Local, Yelp and others, consumers have a voice like never before. So, what’s social networking got to do with YOU? Maybe nothing, but then again, maybe everything... depending on what’s being said about you online. Do you know? If not, let me know and I may be able to help.
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