I started using Facebook and Twitter as professional experiments. I needed to know about these sites to decide whether and how EPA should use them. I also had a LinkedIn account that sat unused for years, and I joined GovLoop. Along the way, I set up accounts on Slideshare and Scribd to share my presentations and EPA’s blogging guidance.
But Facebook, Twitter and GovLoop are where I spend my time, and I’ve settled into a distinct pattern: Facebook is personal and the others are professional.
When I say I use Facebook for personal purposes, I don’t mean I include only non-work people. In fact, most of my friends there are from work, whether at EPA or not. But I use it mostly for sharing non-work stuff: my photos, funny stuff, etc. I’m pretty happy with how I choose friends there, too. I recently reviewed the couple hundred friends there, and I deleted very few. I do get a steady stream of Facebook friend invites from people I’ve met in various ways. I respond politely to ask whether we know each other, explaining I use that site to stay in touch with real-life friends. I also tell people I accept all friend requests at GovLoop.
Twitter, to me, is an extremely valuable professional networking tool. The people I follow help me filter the flood of relevant info, help me think through problems, and share their own ideas in a way that’s very easy for me to absorb as I have time. That’s why I don’t follow back everyone who follows me. There’s no reason that people who might be interested in my musings on gov’t and social media necessarily talk about that topic themselves. I also know there are loads of people who do, but I don’t spend much time looking. I can’t keep up with the people I do follow. But if you talk to me using an @ reply, I usually respond.
GovLoop is really an amazing resource. I wish I had more time to spend. The percentage of stuff that’s relevant to me is very high, whether it’s as a federal gov’t web manager, a federal employee in general, someone committed to gov 2.0, or just a social media user. Since it’s all professional, and I can’t think of any reason not to, I accept all friend requests there.
LinkedIn is a special case. I believe in LinkedIn’s original premise: personal contacts. I don’t mean to be rude or mean if I reject a connection request from someone I don’t know. And I know many people use it as a massive networking tool. But I don’t use it as a general contact file. I actually barely use it, which makes it more important to me that I connect only with people I genuinely know and could say something about.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think my usage pattern is just one of many, and I want to make the point that there’s no single right way of doing it. But I also think we’re all entitled to use these tools as we see fit. I’ve had people tell me it’s wrong to reject a LinkedIn request or a FB friend request. I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree.
BTW: this blog is another example of where we have to use the tools as appropriate. I realized recently I hadn’t found time to write anything substantial in several weeks. But that just reflects how busy I’ve been. I’m sure I’ll pick up the pace again at some point.
Anyway, how do YOU use the tools, and the opportunities they create? Maybe I’m missing something!