Staying relevant through social networking

  • Facebook membership now exceeds 500,000,000 members with the average person having 130 friends. (Source: Facebook)
  • 1,000,000 people join LinkedIn in a typical week with the community boasting over 100,000,000 members. (Source: LinkedIn)
  • 190,000,000 Twitter users send over 65,000,000 tweets in a given day. (Source: Pew Internet)

I knew that these top three social networks have been growing at staggering rates over the past few years. It wasn’t until I did some research for this post that I found out the extent of this growth. It is amazing considering these three networks are infants in terms of business longevity with none of them being over 10 years in age.

Each of these networks has their own personality that I’ve seen develop. Facebook has firmly claimed the role of casual social networking with friends, family and coworkers. With its explosive growth, I am seeing quite a bit of targeted marketing activities occurring in the network. LinkedIn has firmly assumed the role of corporate networker. Very little personal information filters into this network. It is all about careers, employment searches and business communities of interest. Twitter is that rouge network that is a mixed bag. It is truly a network that is driven by the network. It runs the gambit from celebrity gossip, to trivial personal updates, to posts from industry experts. 

Why is the data community so absent in social networks? 

It’s not like we are dead. We are in a comatose state. LinkedIn appears to be the area in which data professionals are more likely to dip their feet into the waters of social networking. There are some frequent tweeters out there, but Twitter appears to be a foreign concept to most in our community. The social traffic is increasing. I think that is only natural given the quick facts I cited at the top of this post.

To answer the above question, I did not have to look far. I have been dabbling in social networking for several years through my personal blog. I have been a long time LinkedIn member, mostly to stay in contact with former co-workers. It wasn’t until last spring that I began to work on my business side of social networking. I began writing this blog and have become more active in LinkedIn discussions. I read quite a bit of industry expert blogs.

I still do not consider myself an avid social networker in our data community. I occasionally tweet and rarely comment on blogs. I do not reach out for opinions or help with a work issue. I see tweeting and actively engaging oneself in discussions about data design dilemmas as reaching the highest level of social networking.

What keeps me from reaching that high level of social networking? It is a combination of things. First, I just don’t think of doing it. This is most likely age related. Young people look first to their network when they face an issue. I’ve been trained to use my analytical skills and research on my own. Second, it’s part of my analytical personality type. Analytical people tend to be less conversant and more introverted. Taking the first steps in a social networking is intimidating. I have overcome a lot of my social shyness, but some still remains. I love to write these blog entries, but I sill have an issue with putting myself out there for all to see and comment.

I suspect my experiences are similar to many data professionals. A large majority in our community are baby boomers who are less likely to embrace new technology. That is a sad statement coming from a person who works in a technology related profession. Unfortunately, it is a reality that comes along with age.

My advice to others in this community is to embrace the thought processes of our younger community members. With email becoming more extinct in favour of faster communication such as tweets and instant messages, we need to take that as a cue that for our messages to continue to get through we need to use Twitter and IM. Change is hard, but change is good. I hope today’s post got you thinking of social networking and your career.

Tom Bilcze
Modeling Global User Community President

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