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?