For web workers, some social networks matter more than others. What I mean by that is while MySpace is still one of the most popular web sites on the planet (Alexa has it ranked No. 9 currently), it’s simply not that important — in relative terms — for connecting with colleagues, potential customers and contacts; obtaining breaking news, links and social media chatter; or getting a sense of what’s happening in social media circles in real time.
As 2009 is shaping up, the most popular and relevant social networks and social media platforms for web workers are Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and LinkedIn. Granted, there’s a vast galaxy of other valuable and interesting social web sites to select from, but it’s important to get a sense of how to get the most out of this particular foursome.
Twitter was a phenomenon in 2007, a rising social media star in 2008, and has largely attained mainstream status in 2009 (cable news stations are falling all over themselves these days in attempt to send you to their Twitter profile, for example). It’s simply one of the most important places to be online. It’s also an amazingly simple and flexible product, which befuddles some and delights many.
While Twitter’s flexibility makes it very useful for all kinds of things — from live event reporting to simply staying in touch with friends and colleagues — I’m coming to believe its most important use for web workers is as a “social media marketing tool.” That, of course, can have many meanings, but think of it like this: it’s a tool to engage the now-mainstream Twitter community in a friendly way, putting a human face on your product or service (or the brand called you!). The counterintuitive fact is that the more you use Twitter as a place to help people and talk about your life and the world at large, the more you’re likely to draw people to trust you — and the brand that you represent — more.
While FriendFeed doesn’t have the numbers that Twitter does (see Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch piece, “FriendFeed Is In Danger Of Becoming The Coolest App No One Uses“), it’s the best place online to consume information and interact with smart people. FriendFeed is a merry mix of content aggregator, microblogging platform and social network that has become official residence for early adopters and social media influencers such as Robert Scoble, Louis Gray and Rob Diana. As a web worker, you owe it yourself to at least check in with FriendFeed to see what’s going on with the “Coolest App.” And you just might find yourself hooked in the process.
Facebook hit mainstream status some time back, and its astounding growth has continued into 2009. I’m a little bit of a contrarian when it comes to Facebook, but I fully recognize that it’s one of the premiere online hubs for web workers to connect with friends and colleagues, share information and media, and to play with all manner of Facebook apps, games and social networking gizmos. Whether or not Facebook is your thing, and much like with MySpace during the middle years of this decade, having some kind of Facebook presence falls somewhere between expected and a given for web workers.
LinkedIn sits in the coveted position of dominating the professional networking space online. One of the reasons that it stands apart from other more “social” social networks is because there’s a higher barrier to connecting with people on LinkedIn than with other social networking websites. In many cases, you have to know someone’s personal email in order to send them a friend request, though paid accounts allow you to send “InMails” to a wider range of people on the site. LinkedIn also offers many professional discussion groups, so it’s a web site that web workers need to be linked up with for professional networking and professional development purposes.
What social networks do you use?