Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Facebook – a garden on the Internet
|At the urging of those who know more than I about all things Internet, I put up a page on Facebook. I immediately started searching for “friends” to build my network. My purpose was merely to connect with people who might be interested in my writing services or who might be useful contacts – just another form of networking. This was business.
I didn't really understand how this was supposed to help me. All I knew was that everyone was doing it, and so should I. After people started accepting my invitations and leaving nice little messages on my “wall” (which functions like a personal bulletin board), I discovered it can be fun. I also discovered that it can eat up hours of time that I never intended to spend that way. I found myself watching for e-mail (you get an e-mail every time somebody sends something to your FB page), checking my wall and looking at my home page to see what all my friends were up to. But I still wasn't really getting it.
Then somebody left a note on my wall that mentioned she's looking forward to working with me later this year on something she's writing for her coaching business. I started to get it. Here was a place where people could learn to associate my name with what I do. Here was a place where little tidbits of information about my business activities could keep me in people's minds and perhaps make them think about how I might be useful to them. At the same time, my friend was announcing that she's a coach, and that she's going to be putting out some materials later this year. It was about exposure. It was about associations. It was about keeping myself on people's radar screens in an inoffensive, friendly, fun way – and it was something I had been invited to do by the mere acceptance of the offer to be Facebook friends.
Facebook is a place to put up substantive information about my activities and achievements. I can link to my Web site. I can post articles, pictures or anything else I would like my FB friends to look at. It's also a place to connect over things that I would never bother to send an e-mail or pick up the phone about. But I can get a quick thought in front of a friend and maybe make her laugh, or make her curious or tell her we have something in common. It's like tapping somebody on the shoulder, with no more purpose to the act than waving hello. It's about awareness of each other as much as anything else.
And I see Facebook creating real friendships that otherwise might not exist. The more you write back and forth on each other's walls, the better you know each other on a personal level. The next time you see each other at some function or event, the more of a bond you have because of all of that Facebook contact. That's great!
Social networking is like throwing handfuls of seeds into a fertile patch of soil without knowing whether they are destined to be marigolds, snapdragons or petunias – or whether any of them will come up at all. But they might. They just might fill my garden with a colorful bounty of flowers. Or they might yield one or two perfect blossoms. I'm blowing the seeds off a dandelion, scattering them into the air, never knowing where they'll take root.