It’s time to redefine the redefining of friends

golden retriever puppiesNearly four years ago, in February of 2011, I wrote a blog post about social networking and redefining the word “friend.” Since then, that post has consistently been near the top of my stats page for number of views. I just read it again and while the basic premise is still sound, some of what I talk about doing there has changed for me. The staying power of that post seems to show how much people are still struggling with social networking vs. interacting with people in real life. So I thought it was time to update the post with how I handle accounts now.

As I said back then, you don’t have to follow my lead. I don’t believe in social media rules but rather best practices. There are some people who are better at it than others, not because they are gurus or follow a strict code, but more because they have found a way to exist online that works for them and the people with whom they interact.

In 2011, my four main social networks were Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. In four years, how I handle my interactions on those accounts has changed a bit, and I no longer use Foursquare after their disastrous break up into Foursquare and Swarm. That move by the developers led me and many others to abandon them as quickly as they had abandoned the core function and attraction of their original app.

Instead, I find myself spending more time on a network that didn’t even exist in early 2011: Google Plus. I’m still on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but some things have changed, and I’ll go into those after I talk about G+.

Google HQGoogle Plus (+AriAdler)

Anyone who interacts with me regularly knows I’m a big fan of Google products. I like they way they are integrated in an effort to make my life simpler through interconnected apps. Some folks like to malign Google Plus as “the Facebook killer that failed.” But here’s the problem with that statement: G+ was never intended to kill Facebook. It is a very different network. I’m on there multiple times every day, either sharing information in my own posts, sharing what others have posted, or visiting one of the many communities I have joined that bring together aficionados of just about anything you can be interested in talking about. I use G+ as the main repository for photos that I shoot, which is now done entirely via my Android phone or my Google Glass (and backed up automatically). And I will follow anyone who seems interesting and doesn’t seem to be a spammer. Their system of Circles that allows me to categorize people and decide who receives all or just some of the posts I share is easier for me to use than Facebook’s system, but that may be a personal preference. Circles also are integrated with Google Contacts and the network is integrated with Gmail, Google Calendar and other Google apps. It’s a way to keep my finger on the pulse of the universe while traveling aboard the Starship Google.

I find I interact with people who have shared interests more than anyone else. Most of my family and friends aren’t using G+ because many of them didn’t see the need to check it out once they settled in on Facebook. I don’t think many of them know what they’re missing, but I’m not one to judge. You should find the network you like, you understand and can work within well. Then enjoy yourself and don’t worry about what others are doing or telling you to do.

— Followers in 2011: 0 —

— Followers today: 1,330 (plus 1.1 million views of my profile pages) — Following today: 3,513

facebook hqFacebook

Back in 2011, I was much more open about becoming “friends” with people. I used to accept invitations from just about everyone and then kept them sorted by lists. I don’t do any of that anymore. Instead, I’m more cautious about who I allow to become a “friend.” I purged a lot of people from my account. I still have “friends” who aren’t friends and so I’m always aware of what I’m saying and sharing, as everyone should be on every Internet-connected system.

I find that I spend more time interacting with family on Facebook than any other social network, with coworkers and people I went to high school with a close second and third. As I mentioned earlier, many of them were on Facebook first and haven’t found a compelling reason to keep up two different types of accounts.

I do find Facebook’s systems frustrating and have honestly spent most of my time on there only because of work needs, then while I’m there I take up shared conversations with friends and family. I visit it, generally, only twice a day but could easily abandon Facebook faster than any other network I use. For some reason, I find Facebook to be a bigger useless time-suck than Google Plus. That’s not to say G+ won’t have you spending a lot of time online that you should be spending doing other things, but when I’m done that time spent just feels more useful on Google+ than on Facebook. Tip: If you haven’t figured out how to turn off auto-play videos on Facebook, go do it now. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you to get back. It will change your life.

— Friends in 2011: 800 —

— Friends today: 904, but different people make up that list now. — 

twitter hqTwitter (@aribadler)

Things haven’t changed a lot in terms of how I use Twitter. I have a lot more followers than I did in 2011 and am following a lot more accounts. Back then I noted it was a free-for-all, a “hodgepodge,” even. That remains true today. It’s an eclectic group that I interact with on Twitter, and I tend to interact with brands and companies more there than anywhere else online. I am on there multiple times per day and it has become the number one place that I schedule posts with news or interesting links via my Hootsuite account. (Google Plus’ API doesn’t allow scheduling things through Hootsuite for personal pages yet, but there are times when I’ll share things on Twitter and won’t share them anywhere else even when I can. I’m not sure the API change will alter that pattern.)

One thing that has changed significantly is how much Twitter has affected my professional life. Many journalists use Twitter now to break news or report on events. I have interacted with more journalists about and for news stories on Twitter in the past year than I probably did in the previous three. That type of interaction is expanding exponentially and I suspect it will continue to for a while.

— Followers in 2011: 4,339 — Following in 2011: 3,876 —

— Followers today: 7,502 — Following today: 8,220 — 

linkedin hqLinkedIn (Ari B. Adler)

I used to think of LinkedIn as “the Rolodex of social networking,” and I think it still is to some extent. I have more business-related and professional interactions on LinkedIn than anywhere else, and what I share there via posts reflects that. I’m on it a few times each week as notifications come in from people who want to connect with me. I don’t use it to its full potential, I’m sure, but it’s just not something I find compelling enough to spend time on. I find its interface clunky and counter-intuitive. Still, the connections you might have on LinkedIn could prove invaluable for a career some day, so I still recommend you check it out if you haven’t. Just remember that sometimes people want to connect with you not because of who you are but because of whom you know. Be careful not to be used as nothing more than a connection to someone else. Even heeding my warning, of course, I still tend to be pretty loose with my requirements for connecting. If I can find a shred of a reason to accept your connection request, I’ll do it.

— Connections in 2011: 500 — Connections today: 1,825 —

I’d be interested in hearing how your use of social media has changed over the years. It wasn’t that long ago that I was jumping on Twitter to figure out what the heck it was all about, because a younger professional in my office was making waves with it and I wasn’t about to get swamped and left behind. Now, it has become so much more routine to be on social media. And yet, years later, it’s still one of the most misunderstood, misused and undervalued opportunities for spreading a message than anything I’ve seen in my many years as a communications professional. I’m still learning and plan to do so for years to come. I would urge you to do the same, “friend.”

 kitten best friends

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Successful networking means redefining “friend”

When you look at my online presence via social media, you might think I have a staggering number of friends. The truth is that while I’m blessed to be able to call a lot of people friends, there’s no way that I can call thousands of people friends. Oh, sure, according to Facebook I have more than 800 “friends” and on Twitter I have more than 4,000 “followers” and on LinkedIn I have more than 500 “connections.” But how many are friends, how many people would really follow me anywhere and how many feel truly connected to me? I’d be lucky if I could say 1 percent.

The point is that we often get caught up in thinking that people we are linked to online are the same as those we have interacted with regularly in real life. News flash: they’re not. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t connect as much as possible, but you should consider how you do that and what’s in it for both of you. And it’s why you might consider different criteria for connecting on various social sites as well as how you interact with folks on those sites.

I’m not going to suggest there is any right way to do that, but I often am asked how I handle requests for friendship, etc. online, so I thought I’d share my thoughts in this post and maybe people would find that useful.

I’m primarily active on four main social networking outlets: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. Here’s how I handle my connections and what they are likely to see if they follow me or become a “friend.”

 

Facebook: I have a rather open criteria for becoming friends with people on Facebook. If a request comes in, I will generally accept it, but I categorize the people on there so it’s easier for me to keep track of my truly close companions and to protect my privacy from those whom I consider just a networking connection. My friend list is broken into four sublists: A list, B list, Networking and Organizations. The A-listers are those people whom I have met in person, share some private connection with and am truly interested in keeping up with regularly. The B-listers are folks who might be friends of friends; the folks I’ve met at an event or through work and believe I should try to develop a relationship with. The Networking list is for people I’ve never met or whom I’ve met but our connection is purely work related and, therefore, with whom I’m more comfortable at arm’s length. Organizations is the list for companies and organizations that have reached out to me. My Networking and Organizations “friends” do not have full access to all of my Facebook information because I’ve not only learned how to use Facebook’s privacy settings, I actually use them.

My Facebook status updates are everything from quotes that I like from famous people to my own statements and observations on life. They are often personal and reflect my sense of humor more than my updates on other sites. I update at least once per day, and sometimes two or three depending on what’s happening that day.

Twitter: Twitter is a bit of a free-for-all, and my connections prove that. As of right now, I have 4,339 followers and I am following 3,876 people, companies and organizations. I obviously don’t follow spammers who start tracking my tweets, and there are times when someone’s Twitter feed just doesn’t contain anything I’m interested in. This includes people who aren’t necessarily spammers but whose feed consists of a constant stream of ideas on how I can make money or be more successful if I follow a link to their website. I also don’t follow or will unfollow people who do nothing but post quotes or annoy me in some way. (There are two quick ways to get unfollowed by me. First, you can abuse the direct message feature by trying to sell me something. Second, you can get on Twitter once per day and push out 20 tweets in 15 minutes as you play catch up on a service that calls for live interaction, not procrastinated responses best reserved for e-mail.)

My Twitter feed really is a hodgepodge of news and blog links, personal commentary, interactions with friends and colleagues, political debates, jokes, puns and snarky reactions to life’s many challenges. And don’t forget, if you are reading my tweets, that means you chose to follow me and be subjected to my sense of humor and my stubborn quest for an honest and nonpolitically correct debate on the issues of the day. If you don’t like what you’re reading, stop reading it. I promise I won’t be offended. Honestly, there’s really no way for me to even notice you’re not there anymore, so I’ll just bid you adieu now. I update a lot on Twitter, every day. Sometimes it’s only a handful of tweets, some days you’ll see a dozen from me. It all depends on the ebb and flow of life that day.

LinkedIn: Because of many training sessions with people who know more about LinkedIn than I do as well as my own trial runs, I have locked down LinkedIn more than the previous two services. It really is the business Rolodex of social media and I think it’s best if we keep it that way. I will connect with you on LinkedIn if we’ve met or if we have some reason to be connected — a shared cause, a common goal, perhaps a mutual friend or colleague who thinks we should know each other. If you try to connect with me on LinkedIn, please don’t use the boilerplate language about wanting to become connected. If you want to connect with me, tell me why. Show me why you belong in my Rolodex. And please make sure your profile is complete so I can learn as much about you as you’ll learn about me. An incomplete profile is an easy way to get ignored, not just by me, but by hundreds of others who otherwise might be interested in getting to know you better.

Because I consider LinkedIn to be the more professional or business world service than other social outlets, my status updates tend to reflect that. I usually reserve the updates for news links, blog links or interesting observations that I believe business connections would enjoy or from which they would benefit. I try to keep my snarkiness as nonexistent as I can, which is not easy for me. I also tend to leave updates on my page for longer than Facebook or Twitter. Because of this, I also tend to post updates that are a bit more timeless or at least have a shelf life of several days before they become too stale to matter.

Foursquare: To me, Foursquare is the most like electronic stalking and so I’m most protective of my presence on this service. My friend list is very small compared to the rest of my social networking outlets. You have to be someone I’ve actually met and whom I feel comfortable sharing most of my whereabouts with.

I don’t check in everywhere I go, reserving these mostly for places where I know I’ll be for a while. I don’t check in during errands that are a quick run in and out, unless it’s a coffee shop, since I figure they’ll all catch on eventually and start offering deals for frequent check-ins. If it’s a business I’m frequenting for an errand, I won’t always check in, but I try to do so if it’s a local business that I’m trying to promote because I believe they are a worthwhile place for my friends to give their business to. Any place where I’ll be for a while and think there’s a chance friends might be nearby at some point always gets a check-in. After all, Foursquare isn’t just about broadcasting your whereabouts, it’s about increasing the chances of bumping into people in real life so you can continue building your friendship in the best way possible: face to face.

 

As I said earlier, these are my methods and you don’t have to agree with them. The best social media counseling I can ever give is to tell people to find what they are comfortable with and make it work for them — whether that’s which social networking sites to be on or how best to conduct themselves there. If you can justify what you’re doing and where you’re doing it, I’ll support you. After all, what are “friends” for?  🙂

(Photo courtesy of Funny Animal Pictures.)

Can we be better strangers?

What are you doing with your social media network? That’s not a rhetorical question. I want you to think about what you are actually accomplishing by being connected to friends, followers and colleagues.

William Shakespeare wrote:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in time plays many parts.

We live in such an amazing era of connectivity. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if it's all just a theater performance with most of us trying to figure out what cue to enter on and, more importantly, how to deliver our lines when we hit our mark.

But then there are times when I am in awe of the sheer power of the era in which we live. Not too long ago, I was sitting in an airport waiting for an airplane to take me the 1,000 miles back to my home. It’s the type of trip we take for granted now because it is so easy and quick, no matter how much we complain about airlines and airports. While waiting, I decided to catch up on some messages in my G-Mail account. I forgot that when I logged in, my G-Chat would be turned on — that was until someone from Boston reached out to me via that service.

They were having a difficult time because of getting caught up in a rumor about a local business and, despite having reasonably good sources, were now in trouble with the business owner because they’d helped spread the rumor via a blog post. There are so many ways in which this story truly lays out the stage upon which we are all playing these days. The rumor was spreading faster because of my colleague’s blog post — faster than it ever could have in years past. The business owner was facing problems because of the rumor spreading so fast that he was unsure how to recover. There’s a quote attributed to Winston Churchill that goes, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.” And that was in Churchill’s time!

So this colleague of mine was reeling from what had happened and, seeing I was online and knowing my background, decided to reach out for help. He reached out in his instant of need, via a free service provided by a company that has made billions of dollars by upending the standard business model. He could reach me because I was on a computer small enough to fit on my lap and connected to the Internet via a wireless technology that allows communication at speeds unheard of just a few years ago.

Perhaps the most startling of all, however, was that this colleague reached out to me with a sincere cry for help even though we have never met. We know each other via Twitter, we have seen pictures of each other, we are connected on LinkedIn, and we have arranged one phone call just to get to know each other a little better. But we are basically nothing more than connections in a vast network of people tuned in to each other via technology.

I’m not suggesting that the plea for help should not have been made, and I’m happy that I was able to offer some counsel and comfort to my colleague in his moment of need. I haven’t heard how the situation he was dealing with ended, but that’s irrelevant to this post. My point is that I was there when someone needed me. I was there for a person I’ve never met in real life and I was able to help.

So, I ask you again: What are you doing with your social media network? Are you using it to its full potential? Are you seeking counsel and finding solace? Are you paying it forward in some way by helping others? Are you tweeting, chatting and updating your way to greatness either by providing or being provided help when it is needed most? The Shakespeare quote above was from As You Like It — and perhaps that 16th century bard was just ahead of his time. After all, As You Like It also includes the line: “I do desire we may be better strangers.”

Oh, William, so do I.

(Shakespeare photo courtesy of Wikipedia; cables photo courtesy of Phrenologist’s Flickr strea.)

Should you cross-post updates to Facebook and Twitter?

Here’s an article I wrote that was published on Ragan.com:

Published: 3/5/2010

Should you cross-post updates to Facebook and Twitter?
By Ari B. Adler

Consider your audience before posting the same update to multiple social media channels

The root strategy for any public relations initiative includes creating your message, determining your audience, and finding the best way of delivering your message to that audience. But now, with social media, technology has given people the ability to blast identical messages to different audiences.

LinkedIn allows you to post your status update simultaneously to Twitter. You can automatically feed your tweets to Google Buzz. You can connect tweets with your Facebook status updates or your Posterous feed. And with third-party software like Tweetdeck, you can post the same message to multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook and LinkedIn with the touch of one Send button. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on whom you ask.

“I don’t cross-post, because I use each tool for a slightly different purpose. Therefore, I target messages for each audience,” says Angela Dockett, marketing and communications manager for the American Cancer Society in East Lansing, Mich.

“I’ve done it, but am starting to back off,” admits Jason Dobson, a professional gaming blogger in Broken Arrow, Okla. “Audiences can be quite different between social media sites, and the messaging needs to reflect that.”

Although there is some mingling of followers and friends from one platform to the other, the style of how people communicate on those platforms differs, especially from a language standpoint.

While Twitter often is filled with abbreviations and symbols, those same messages appearing on a Facebook page could be confusing. Still, that hasn’t stopped some people from connecting their accounts.

“I post Twitter to Facebook, because I have friends and family finally on Facebook that don’t get Twitter. It’s too much of a hassle for me to keep up with both,” says Colleen Lin, senior rich media producer for the Dallas County Community College District in Texas. When asked if the audiences were ever confused, Lin said they were at first.

“I had some complaints, but I find that most people ‘hide’ me (on Facebook) if they’re irritated,” she says.

For some entities, particularly government agencies and universities, cross-posting may make sense.

“We cross-post, using Facebook for students and future students; Twitter for corporations, media and parents,” says Laurie Creasy, a new media specialist at Penn State.

Creasy said they aren’t using quite the same message everywhere, but Penn State hopes all the separate networks see similar messages. She noted the messages on Twitter are “more professional.”

In Rhode Island, the state Department of Transportation uses the exact same message on multiple networks, according to Dana Alexander Nolfe, RIDOT’s chief public affairs officer.

“I have a very broad target audience, and I think my goal is to get my message to as many people as possible. With so many venues, and to ensure consistency, I cross-post my message,” Nolfe says. “Some social media have a good-size audience, and some are very small, but my feeling is if MySpace, for example, is the only place someone is going to go to get RIDOT’s message, then I am going to continue to ensure that the message gets out that way.”

Some argue that business accounts should be given some leeway when cross-posting.

“The audiences are completely different if you are coming from a personal perspective,” says A.J. Teachout, owner of Ulu Marketing in Detroit. “My Twitter followers are likely not my Facebook friends, or friends at all for that matter, so they will not care to hear about what my kid did the other day. My Facebook friends actually know me and care to hear more personal details.

“That being said, from a business perspective, I think it’s a wise move. Your audience is in it for the same reason—to learn more about the business and, likely, your messages will be similar.”

In the end, it’s up to the individual whether to cross-post. With social media being such a new conduit, there’s no proven right or wrong way to do things—yet.

“The bottom line is: Know your audience and how they might be different across multiple networks and social sites,” Teachout says. “How would that affect your message?”

Time management more challenging as new networks grow

Here’s an article I wrote for Ragan Communications about time management and the risk of social networking interrupting our ability to enjoy where we’re at and finish what we’re trying to do. I think social media is awesome, but even I admit there are times we need to evaluate how much we’re doing these days.

Published: 2/16/2010

Time management more challenging as new networks grow
By Ari B. Adler

By the time you’ve tweeted and checked in and updated your status, have you missed out on a slice of real life?

Remember “Where’s Waldo?” That lost-again-found-again character that rocketed to fame in the United States in the 1990s probably wouldn’t have found nearly as much success if he were introduced today. That’s because the answer would be too simple—finding Waldo would just require following him via myriad social networking services such as Twitter,FacebookFoursquare or the new Google Buzz.

If you want to know where people are, just start watching their online posts. They tweet about what they’re doing. They provide a Facebook status update about their plans for the day. They “check in” with Foursquare, alerting the world where they are at any given moment. And, with the new Buzz, they have the ability to drop all of it into your Gmail inbox.

The explosion of online tracking has many users wondering whether they could juggle all the social media tools, and many others wondering why they’d want to.

“For better and worse, we’ve raised our tolerance for how much we can multitask and fit into our days, so we’re better at being able to fit it all in with only some falling to the wayside,” says Andrew Schreck, a director at John Bailey & Associates Public Relations, in Troy, Mich. “There will be a breaking point where we can not, or do not want to, add any more technology and maybe slide back to a bit simpler lifestyle. I’ve seen this with Facebook, where friends are dropping out or paring back on followers because it is occupying too much of their time.”

The concept of time management has never been more in flux than it is lately with all of the different ways people can spend their time, both online and off. Despite fears to the contrary, online social networking has not made society less social. In some instances, the number of social activities people are invited to in real life are increasing.

“I can’t imagine the Foursquare-style check-ins continuing into the future, but I see solutions like Google Latitude taking hold, where your friends and any other applications you authorize could know where you are, without a specific application,” says Charles Hoffmeyer, operations analyst for the Michigan State Police. “Twitter, Facebook and Buzz fall into a different category. The social applications that support conversations with friends and strangers will thrive and will help us interact more effectively in the physical world.”

Automating the process would help the concept grow more rapidly, says Shannon Paul, social media manager for PEAK6 Online, in Seattle, Wash.

“While it’s still novel, location-based technology has far to go. Check-ins at exact locations still need to be performed manually, but I think many will eventually opt into having their location status update automatically during stretches of time,” Paul said.

Knowing when to say when

Automating the processes might raise some eyebrows over privacy, but the folks who are checking in manually have already given up a fair amount.

As more and more services start to crop up, those services heighten the burden of trying to find time for them all.

“Because of all the latest and greatest platforms that pop up on a pretty regular basis, those that try to use all will spend a pretty hefty chunk of time talking about doing rather than doing, and connecting rather than interacting,” says Kasey Anderson, a creative services specialist with Citizens Bank in Flint, Mich. “While this will impact enjoyment, I don’t think it’s a mainstream issue. Most of us know when to say when.”

Perhaps the bigger question is this: Are we all going to be so busy checking in with one another about where we are and what we’re doing that we won’t actually have any time to enjoy where we are or finish what we’re doing?

“I think that’s certainly going to be a concern for some people, but I see distraction as a human problem rather than a technology problem,” Paul says. “Some people have trouble staying in the moment and focusing on a task whether or not there’s technology involved.”

Daniel J. Hogan, an author, podcaster, and media production specialist in Lansing, Mich., agrees with that statement—and so, apparently, would his parents.

“I’ve caught myself checking Twitter updates on my phone when I should be enjoying what I’m actually doing,” Hogan says. “It comes back to self-control, and I’m more aware of it—especially when I’m around my parents, as my mom will point out that I’m ‘being rude.’ ”

The rudeness concept isn’t reserved for the older generations who just don’t understand some people’s need for constant connectivity.

Angela Minicuci, a recent graduate from Michigan State University, says that although she’s been guilty of being distracted by technology, she is trying to get better about it.

“One thing I try to do—and something everyone should remember—is to live in the moment and enjoy the company we have,” Minicuci said. “I think social interactions are less enjoyable when we’re distracted, and while a check-in or update can be fun, we should make our friendsour priorities, not our followers.”

So, is the flashy technology creating some new threat for society, or is this just an old story being retold with new characters?

According to Ryan Knott, manager of communications at the Michigan Osteopathic Association, in Okemos, Mich., society has been here before.

Since the invention of the telegraph and telephone, Knott says, our lives have become less about where we are and more about what has our attention.

“When I’m checking Twitter while at a restaurant or party, it’s not that I’m not taking the time to enjoy where I am and who I’m with,” he says. “But where I am now means more than just where my physical body currently resides. I’m no longer simply engaged in conversations in the space 3 feet around me, but all around the world. Whether you think that’s good or bad will depend largely on what you value.”

Linking LinkedIn and Twitter: You can—but should you?

Here’s an article I wrote recently for Ragan.com about linking your LinkedIn and Twitter status updates:

Published: 11/17/2009

Linking LinkedIn and Twitter: You can—but should you?
By Ari B. Adler

If you use networks to different ends, the overlap may be undesirable

“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” “No! You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!”

Those of you old enough to remember that ad campaign for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups can appreciate Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s using the reference when talking about LinkedIn and Twitter status updates getting connected.

For the younger readers, just trust that it was clever, fun and enduring—perhaps the very attributes Biz Stone would like people to think about Twitter.

LinkedIn now allows you to connect your Twitter account to your profile, to have your Twitter feed sent to your LinkedIn page and to have your LinkedIn status updated via Twitter by simply adding #in to your tweet.

Stone and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman are touting it as the greatest thing since, well, since peanut butter cups. They claim it will help people get things done. The question is, what things?

Updating Twitter and LinkedIn simultaneously is simple enough, if not the easiest thing to remember when you’re hyper-multitasking and trying to zip off a quick update via your thumbs while waiting for an elevator. But should you do it just because you can?

Various descriptions have been coined over the past year to compare all the networking services. The one most frequently used denotes LinkedIn as the office, Twitter as a cocktail reception and Facebook as a backyard barbecue. If that’s the case, should you be connecting all of your status updates from one to the others?

If you belong to a social networking group, your reasons for keeping that group of “friends” may be different from the reasons you connect with people in another group. So would you want your status updates and comments to be the same everywhere?

That answer would be “no” for Lindsay M. Allen, a professional communicator from Mt. Pleasant, Mich., who is unemployed and relying on LinkedIn as part of her job-search strategy.

“I’ve had some version of the same status update [at LinkedIn] for about eight months. I go in and refresh it, but that’s it,” Allen said. “I don’t need LinkedIn to know what I’m saying to Twitter. I need LinkedIn to know I’m looking for a job.”

Allen’s comment raises a point that most users should consider. Do you make the same comments and bring up the same topics of discussion at an office meeting as you do at a family gathering, a night on the town with friends or a professional networking event? You probably don’t, and if it’s not something you do in person, then don’t do it online, either.

In his book, “Six Pixels of Separation,” Mitch Joel writes, “…digital channels break down the notion of ‘it’s who you know,’ because we all live in a world where we can know everyone—and everyone can know us.”

That’s one reason people should think twice before linking all of their status updates together. People we know and people we don’t know can now learn much more about us than ever before, but often it will be learned out of context.

If the analogy of the office and the cocktail party holds true, then think about how you behave in those two settings. It’s very likely that what you say and, more important, how you say it will vary from a professional office to a reception after work.

That also depends on who is at the reception with you. Peers and colleagues who know you well will understand if you decide to have fun and blow off some steam. Unless you cross some heinous line, what you say after work is unlikely to affect your professional standing with them. But what if you were at a cocktail reception with a room full of strangers? Would they take what you consider fun banter to be a true representation of who you are and how you operate?

Joel also writes in his “Six Pixels” book, “LinkedIn is the dark horse of online social networks for professionals. It is amazing and, with some simple tweaks, you’ll be shocked at how quickly it can grow your digital footprint.”

That shock Joel writes about could be of another kind—a kind that is likely to do more harm than good. Although some may see it as a time saver to update all your status boxes at once, it’s really akin to just walking into every meeting and social gathering with a bullhorn, shouting out whatever is on your mind and not caring if the people in the room will get it or even care. Or worse, they could be offended by it.

That is assuming, of course, that people are actually paying attention to status updates on LinkedIn. The site devotes much less of its screen real estate to status updates than Twitter or Facebook. Status updates have never been the focus of LinkedIn, which may be one reason some folks will decide not to bother with real-time updating.

“Considering the limitation of status updates you can see at a time on LinkedIn, it’s a non-issue for me. I haven’t merged them and don’t intend to,” said Ari Herzog, an online media strategist from Boston.

“No one uses LinkedIn to check statuses,” said Derek Wallbank, the Washington, D.C. correspondent for MinnPost.com. “You’re updating to the cosmic void.”

Ari B. Adler is a professional communicator with experience as a newspaper reporter and editor, as well as a government and corporate spokesperson. He is the communications administrator for Delta Dental of Michigan and an adjunct instructor at Michigan State University and University of Michigan-Dearborn. You can follow him on Twitter at @aribadler.

Pepsi makes ONE cola; doesn’t believe in one society

07_Pepsi_ONE_Family_v2Pepsi has announced a new online community targeting African-American moms as a way to help that demographic inspire each other with their stories. It’s interesting to me that a company that makes a product called ONE is now trying to continue the troubling history in this country of separating people by race.

I had high hopes that social media, finally, would be one vehicle that would help us smash through the barriers erected by differences in the color of our skin and help us realize that we are all part of one race: the human race.

But now, marketers at Pepsi have decided that African-American moms are underrepresented and need a place to have their voices heard. Too bad their voices won’t be heard by anyone other than people exactly like them.

I’m a white dad, so obviously I can’t speak for black moms everywhere. I just wish marketing people at companies like Pepsi would realize they can’t either. First of all, who  asked them to? Who says black women can’t get on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all the other outlets to have their voices heard? Who says they need a special place just to call their own — and that they can’t create one via Ning? Who says that black women aren’t smart enough to see right through this marketing trap? Who says we need to turn the Internet into a microcosm of real life, with its inherent racism and the segregation that results from it?

Just last month, we saw the passing of the 46th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I can’t help but wonder how inspirational and amazing he would find the technology of today and how it has transformed our abilities to see past race and look only at a person for what they are contributing to the conversation.

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_WashingtonHis infamous exclamations certainly ring true when you look at a social media outlet like Twitter, which helps meld us into a community that is not based on race, religion or nationality.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

“Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

I recently had a colleague who is just getting into social media make the following comment, and it punctuates what I’m trying to say in this post:

I find it fascinating that social media is generating social activity that did not exist before and bringing together people that otherwise would not have connected. Way fun.

It’s too bad major American brands like Pepsi can’t see the potential for social media to bring us together instead of another avenue to keep us apart.