Written by Karen D. Swim
The invitation arrived in a velvet box tied with silk ribbon. Inside the box atop dupont silk was the quirky greeting inviting me to join the party.
Excited to meet new friends, I dressed in my best party clothes and showed up on time. I tapped on the door holding my invitation in one hand. No one answered so I gently pushed the door and it swung open. “Hello” I called out softly. I stepped in and as my eyes adjusted to the light I saw that I was in a narrow waiting room of sorts. There was a gated door and a small table to the right.
I walked toward the table and picked up a plain white sheet of paper that read, “Please fill out this form to be invited to the party.” I dropped the paper on the table. Was this a joke? I was invited to apply for entrance to the party.
Inviting someone to connect with you on a social media platform and then blocking entrance is no different from this party scenario. Choosing to have your Twitter or FriendFeed stream protected from the public is a legitimate choice. Social media platforms are an excellent way to connect with work teams, friends and family. You can share real time updates, photos, links and files on an easy to use platform that allows group and one-on-one discussion without the hassle of email.
A private stream for private purposes is a smart use of technology. However, many are inviting strangers to participate in their private stream. Well, sort of. The internet is wonderful but privacy concerns are real and everyone should exercise caution in the amount of information that is revealed. However, if you are going to network, it is difficult to open the door and then slam it shut when someone attempts to reciprocate.
I have worked with many clients who have had to overcome their concerns about privacy and transparency in order to participate in social media. Some joined and lurked a bit before fully participating; others jumped right in and over time grew comfortable with the “personal” conversations. Still others network as they do in real life, all business with nothing more personal than an occasional comment about traffic or a lukewarm latte.
I am not a fan of issuing rules around social networking. It is not one size fits all. You will use the tools to fit your purpose and personality. However, if you are considering the “kind-of, sort-of” model I have described here then be prepared for others to refuse to play. If you really want to connect and you’re a little shy, just stand next to me, I’ll hold your hand and introduce you to my friends.
How do you balance networking with privacy? Any tips to share with new networkers?
I love the metaphor which you use to describe this situation.
Personally, I would run a mile if someone opened and closed the door in the manner that you describe, which does not sound at all like a remotely effective networking strategy.
Those who participate in social networking forums should set out a clear idea before they start about what they want to share and with whom. Once this is done, they should either invite others in or otherwise. But inviting others in and then making them jump through hoops in order to register and participate does not seem particularly sensible to me.
Ulla Hennig says
there is a big discussion going on about privacy here in Germany, and a lot of people are afraid of joining social networks because they are afraid. I think that it is important that we know what we are doing – there is also the saying “don’t write in an e-mail what you would not write on a postcard”. Information given on the web can be searched for and archived – a lot of people don’t know that.
Knowing all these things I am on Twitter and facebook, and I am writing a blog and commenting.
Ulla Hennig´s last blog post..Memories and Old Stuff
Karen Swim says
@Brad, I think that approach is smart and one I try to live by as well. I won’t say I’ve never stuck my virtual foot in my mouth but er I would’ve done that in real life too!
@Conor, hi there! I completely agree with you. I behave on the internet as I do in person. I am certain it is a direct result of still hearing my mum’s voice telling me to behave like a lady. Or one could say my life just ain’t that interesting! lol! I absolutely think people should exercise discernment in the information they share and with whom. And as you said, write it down if you must but let it sit before you hit publish or you may regret it for a very long time.
@Roland, lol! I love the approach! We can protect our privacy without hiding our personality! I am quite frankly appalled at the location applications that blast where you are all over the internet. As a woman, I will not ever use Google Latitude or any such service that tells people online exactly where I am and don’t understand the appeal.
@Fred, wow! Excellent observation about Sales and LinkedIn. The world is changing and I think we have all had to live with the new competitive environment. Information is fairly transparent and is no longer the leverage it was in the old economy. However, I would rather be the one mastering the tools than pretending the world is not evolving.
@Alex, I agree with you! Be smart but you can’t live in fear. Your picture as an avatar is no big deal but tweeting your home address is stupidity.
Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says
Honestly I a while back gave up caring about privacy. We live in a world where anyone can learn pretty much anything about you with just a little bit of work.
And I don’t care if they do.
As for identity theft, I don’t take stupid risks, but I take the same attitude about my house – I lock the door when I leave the house, but I don’t have an alarm system.
I prefer not to live in fear. On- or off-line.
Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog post..Creativity & Paying the Bills: Dave Rhodes Interview
Fred H Schlegel says
Sure glad the party scene was a ‘scenario’ and not a memory. Was worried it was a new fad designed to bring high school nightmares back to life for a second there.
This is a really interesting problem for folks in sales who live by their rolodex. On the one hand they traditionally are some of the best networkers out there, on the other – Linkedin and other sites threaten to expose their contact list to the world. I know several who are taking the jump, under the assumption that the information is all available no mater what, but it is still a subject that creates quite a bit of concern.
Fred H Schlegel´s last blog post..Community Creativity: “Let’s Put On A Show”
Roland Hesz says
Karen, I found that the “Musashi” approach works best.
“I will never regret anything I do..” he wrote. Then, after a moment he crossed it out and wrote “I will never do anything, that I will regret”.
If you keep yourself to that rule – most of the time, we all have our moments 🙂 -, then you will be safe on the internet.
On personality: sadly, that is something that people like to keep “out of business”. But after a while people tend to realize that business is people, and everyone needs a different approach. And I’ve never seen a successful salesman who had no personality.
“How are you?” and “How is the family?” are two magic sentences selling tons of stuff – provided the salesman listens to the answer.
Roland Hesz´s last blog post..A long week, but it did worth it
I’m glad you posted this as I discussed this recently with a work colleague.
Privacy is definitely more of a concern here in Ireland than in the US, where I’ve even seen people give out personal numbers on Twitter. Thus when we advise companies about corporate blogging, Facebook pages and Twitter, privacy is an important factor.
I agree with Brad. So many people don’t realise the Internet is a permanent archive. If you choose to rant in a blog post, it will be indexed. If you choose to upload THOSE photos from the bachelor party, they will be found, possibly by recruiters or work colleagues, or your boss.
It’s a great thing that online interaction removes some many boundaries and topples so many walls. However, misrepresent yourself once and it could come back to haunt you time and time again.
I would say above all else, be true to yourself, your brand and your message and please inject some personality. The world is full of grey. Be colourful!
Brad Shorr says
Karen, These are good questions. The best approach I’ve been able to come up with is not saying anything on a public forum you don’t care if the world knows. Comments and conversations that go beyond that are better handled privately.
Brad Shorr´s last blog post..Social Media Squeeze Endangers Midsized Firms