Strange Social Media or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Anarchy

by on February 18, 2009

I am new to this Social Media space. For those that have no clue what I am talking about, it means many things to many people but most would agree that sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are part of it.


For me it started with LinkedIn. This is a site dedicated to professional networking. You post your resume and professional information, and link to people you know. I was very conservative with my links. I approached folks I knew, and gladly accepted invites from folks that I had worked with. My big debate was who was a professional contact. Do I link to my Pastor? My Brother-in-law. I accepted it as gospel, that LinkedIn was a way to digitize your existing network.

Then it happened. I received an invite from someone I did not recall working with. I cautiously replied with a nicely-worded “Do I know you?” and received a reply that no, we had not met, but she was trying to connect with folks that were technical writers and instructional designers as she has occasion to contract out those roles. Well, my first thought was, that’s not right, but it was immediately supplanted by the echo of “contract out those roles”. You see, I am an independent Tech Writer, and I needed to expand my network. This was a no-brainer.

What’s the Point

Well, the point is, the way I have used LinkedIn has evolved over time. I have learned to accept the different uses folks have put it to. This was spurred by two things today.

The first was a conversation with an insurance salesman who “cold-called” me on LinkedIn. Frankly it pissed me off. It was my first LinkedIn spam and I felt it had crossed a boundary. As we exchanged e-mail messages, my attitude changed. I still don’t like the technique, and it is a 100% sure way to never earn my business, but who am I to tell him how to use this valuable tool. It would have been easier for me to click delete and move on. That will be my process in the future. I hold no ill-will towards this guy, though his method is totally ineffective with me, I am sure he has had some success. And it really wasn’t that invasive.

The second was a quick Twitter exchange between two folks a follow. It was between @chrisbrogan and @techherding. Chris Brogan is a well known social media pundit. He is passionate about connecting, so he obviously has a very loose definition of who he will link to in LinkedIn. He has a free e-book espousing his opinion that he linked to in the conversation (I must reveal, I have not had time to read it). @techherding (Dick) takes a more reserved approach. He disagrees with Chris, and said as much, calling Chris’ approach more of a network of prospects. They have very different perspectives, and I think they are both right. LinkedIn is what you make of it. For Chris it is an invaluable tool to connect, for Dick it is a network of people he trusts. We can choose how we want to connect. I don’t think anyone looking at Chris’ 500+ connections would think he could personally vouch for them. And I would never take a link to mean an endorsement.

Frankly I am way closer to Dick on this. I only have a few “prospects”, put I think that adds value to LinkedIn for me. As Dick pointed out, Chris’s approach is the way to anarchy, but I am learning to embrace that a little more now. Only time will tell if that will serve me well or not.

Final Points:

  • I love the fact that folks like Chris & Dick never refer to themselves as “Gurus”, adding further evidence to my position that if you call yourself a Guru you are almost certainly not one.
  • I covet Dick’s self-ascribed title of “Social Media Theorist”.
  • Chris Brogan displays how to say what I just said quicker and better on his site.

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