What Is Social Media

What do you think about LinkedIn?  How do you feel about Facebook?  What is this Twitter thing?  I get these questions a lot.    I can’t opine on Facebook or Twitter because I do not use them.  I do use LinkedIn.  What do they have in common?  Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Plaxo are what they call “social media.”

As I understand it, the difference between social media and say a website or email is that social media is about continuous interactivity and engagement amongst people who choose to be part of a particular network of individuals. It is basically about information sharing and constant contact.  LinkedIn is unabashedly about business and professional networking, and, yes, dignified self-promotion – and ultimately about mutual assistance and leveraging relationships.

LinkedIn Leads the Way for Business Types

About two and a half years ago, I received a request from a guy with whom I used to work to “connect” with him on LinkedIn.  Not knowing what it was, but not wanting to insult the guy, I agreed to accept his invitation and to register with LinkedIn.  In order to register with LinkedIn, I had to give some basic information such as name, current employer, and e-mail.  I promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward a year, I am sitting next to Gary Slack at a small dinner party of the Economic Club of Chicago that he was co-hosting.  For those of you who do not know Gary Slack, he (and his firm Slack Barshinger) is one of the preeminent business to business (“B2B”) marketing gurus in the U.S.  At the dinner, Gary was speaking passionately to me and another dinner guest at length about this neat, new phenomenon called LinkedIn that allowed business people and professionals to connect with each other and exchange information with their networks.  He said this was the way people would increasingly relate to each other in a commercial setting and that it was like Facebook, but it was geared toward professionals and business people.  He further said that the flurry of information from your connections and their connections about their career experience and their current professional and sometimes personal activities was absolutely fascinating and compelling. I thought, hmmm, if Gary says this is an important feature of future business relationships, I had better pay attention.

For Some the Web Is the Predominant Way They Make Commercial Decisions

I went on LinkedIn to look at my home page and LinkedIn prompted me to complete my professional profile, to start inviting people to connect with me and to start making and asking for recommendations/endorsements from my connections.  It also encourages you to join affinity groups and to post updates on your activities. It seemed like a lot of work, but I starting doing it.

LinkedIn makes it easy to send invitations as it allows you to import your contacts from Microsoft Outlook or whatever contact system you use.   On my LinkedIn home page, my daughter’s name popped up as one of many people who I may know and with whom I may wish to connect.  My daughter, Marisol, and I began discussing the utility of LinkedIn and Facebook and she explained to me that she was using them and other internet vehicles to market her employer, a high-end-custom clothier.  She explained to me that her crowd of twenty-something-year olds gets most of their news, recommendations and reviews from the internet.  So Gary Slack and Marisol motivated me to test the waters of LinkedIn and I am glad they did.

Twelve Things You Should Know About Using Social Media and the Web

Here is what I have learned about social media and the web in the past year and a half:

  • People  of the age 35 and under are using the internet and social media to make a majority of their commercial decisions and, as each year passes, and they grow older, these types of web users will eventually become the majority of the population.
  • People will “Google” you to research you for their personal or business reasons, so your presence on the internet had better be a positive image – a strong LinkedIn profile greatly helps.
  • If you do not have a presence on the internet, you will eventually become invisible, as people will be using fewer other media or forums to hear, see or learn about you.
  • If you do not have a presence on the internet, you will begin to be perceived as out of the mainstream and unsophisticated; that sounds harsh, but it is the reality.
  • Your LinkedIn profile and activities updates will educate and remind people, even your family and close friends, of your expertise and skill sets.
  • Employers and executive recruiters are using LinkedIn to search for job candidates; if you are not on LinkedIn, you may not be found.
  • Editors, reporters, and bloggers are using LinkedIn to find subject matter experts for their articles and stories.
  • Using LinkedIn reinforces and strengthens your offline relationships with others because you have more information about each other and more reasons to communicate.
  • There are people getting clients, customers, assignments, projects, jobs and deals through their LinkedIn activities – it works for some folks.
  • There are people not getting, clients, customers, assignments, projects, jobs and deals through their LinkedIn activities – it does not work for some other folks.
  • You will be fascinated and surprised about who your connections are “connected to,”  who is reading your profile, and how many times a week your name comes up in a search.
  • Social Media can become addictive and all-consuming if you are not disciplined about its use – you do not want it to become a huge time waster.

Social media is clearly not the be all and end all of professional visibility and advancement.  However, an executive cannot afford not to understand it or not use it.   Rapid change is unforgiving for Luddites in the executive suite. Enough said.  Please give me your thoughts.


  1. Shia,

    The way people are communicating is changing. I was talking to an executive the other day who works for a major company who noted when he and his over 35-year old colleagues were sending business-related emails to many of their under twenty-five year old workers, they were getting no responses, but silence. Then they discovered that when they sent emails through Facebook, Myspace or Linkedin, the young workers responded immediately as expected and required. The young workers were simply not checking their work-related emails but were always checking their social media sites. His company adjusted and now also sends emails via the social media sites to these young workers. For the companies who are limiting or banning their workers from using social media at work, or from identifying their employer on these sites, those companies will have some challenges ahead of them. The Genie is out of the bottle, and I am not sure they can put the Genie back and secure the bottle with a strong enough cork. So the trick is for management to control the Genie to serve constructive and productive purposes. Effective executives adapt to change. Outstanding executives direct the course of change.

    G. A.


  2. You’re so right on this one, G.A.!

    I find myself making assumptions about people who pooh pooh social media–either their closed minded, afraid of change, un-read or just plain stubborn.

    I think any parent needs to be versed in it too, because that’s how our kids are communicating–and will be forever. I want to be part of that!

    great job!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s