Social networking pitfalls

(EDIT: Had to edit my APA citations to be more in line with the APA manual. It’s been so long since I’ve done APA back in high school…I guess it’s not like riding a bike.)

Social networking and Web 2.0 are often talked about as great ways to reach out to customers. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they all have their downsides if not used properly.

For example, creating a Facebook fan page is perfect for sharing pictures, stories, and news, because new information will appear on all fans’ home page. It is also a great medium for having open communication with customers. However, the fan base must be cultivated. It’s a turn-off if it’s updated too frequently, or not frequently enough. Fan comments should be replied to, and should turn into meaningful conversations, otherwise the company will get a reputation for not taking their customers seriously, another turn-off. Once a bad reputation develops, it is incredibly difficult to regain the strong fan base.

It’s the same thing for Twitter. It’s great for communicating with your tweeps, and it is easy for people and fans on the go to communicate with companies and individuals. Unfortunately, it’s hard to condense big ideas into 140 characters or fewer, and it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed with all the tweets and replies people make. Savvy Twitterers know to share only simple ideas, and maintain communication. Un-replied to tweets, over-tweeting (aka spam), and tweeting over multiple posts are all signs of somebody unfamiliar with the medium, which can lead to a reputation of mass media illiteracy. And that is another turn-off.

Even with all of these “catches,” that doesn’t mean people should be slow to adopt the technology, because if you don’t develop a presence on the most popular social networking websites, it is easier for someone to hijack your identity and damage your reputation that way, as well. Ashish Sadanandan¬† touches on the risk of social network identity theft in his blog post, “Price to pay for social networking – identity theft.”

Okay. Let’s say you signed up for Twitter/Facebook/Other Social Network. You’re working on building and maintaining conversations. Are you good to go? Not so much, says Michael Stephens, in his article, “The Ongoing Web Revolution,” (2007).¬† There’s six other “building blocks” budding social networkers need to learn and use. Different social networks require an emphasis on different building blocks, so don’t be surprised if you don’t use one skill as often as another.

Here are all 7 core skills to know and use:

  • Identity–a way of uniquely identifying people in the system
  • Presence–a way of knowing who’s online/nearby
  • Relationships–a way of describing the relationship between two people online
  • Conversations–a way of communicating with others in the system
  • Groups–a way to form a community of similar interests
  • Reputation–a way to know the status or reputation of people in the system
  • Sharing–a way of sharing meaningful things with participants

Did you notice something? We already touched on most of these subjects when talking about conversations! I suggest that you read the rest of his article to get a better sense of what’s required of social media.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an open link to this article–use your library’s database to find and read it. If you’re reading this, you probably know how to use databases, hmm?

One final thing. Don’t despair if you fail at one or all of these core social skills! Some things just don’t work out as well in some social networks, but work better in others. Do what’s right for you, and for your library or business. For example, if you’re better at Facebook than at Twitter, use Facebook. But if your library or business has customers on Twitter, ask a coworker to manage the Twitter account instead. Or you could take turns. For example, the Omaha Public Library shares the task of managing their Facebook page among several employees. One person handles Monday and Tuesday, another handles Wednesday and Thursday, and so on. Southwest Airlines shares the task of managing their Twitter account in a similar fashion. That way nobody has to burn out unnecessarily.

I know that to grow my business of selling library crafts, I should use my Twitter account more. I have an account. I used to be an addict. But then I burned out and just haven’t gone back. In this way, I technically failed. But it is a skill, and with all skills, it has to be cultivated, learned, and grown.

Sadanandan, A. ( 2010, August 19). Price to pay for social networking – identity theft [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2007). The ongoing web revolution. Library Technology Reports, 43(5), 10-14.

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