Sep 202011

Today’s tip is an old one but a good one.  Add to your cell phone contacts an entry called “ICE” which stands for “In Case of Emergency.”  Add in the number you want someone to call if (heaven forbid) someone discovers your unconscious body and wants to notify your loved ones.   It’s like having a really short emergency contact list . . . on speed-dial.

In my own phone, I have two ICE entries.

ICEHusband

ICEParents

I figure my rescuer would like some context as to who they are speaking with.

The legend is that ICE-ing cell phones was a technique recommended by a 9/11 rescuer who kept finding cell phones on victims but had no idea who to call to notify about the situation.

There is only one downside I have found when you ICE your cell phone.  If you have your ICE contact in the phone twice, once as the ICE contact and again by first and last name, then the phone can get a little confused.  When my husband calls me on my cell phone, for example, it generally says, “[Name] or 1 other calling” but it can also say “ICE or 1 other calling.”  Still, at least I know who is calling!

Since a cell phone is an item most people routinely carry around all the time, it is a great spot to institute a little emergency preparedness and it takes just a second to do.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , ,
Sep 152011

"Washington, D.C. The arrival in Washington of Hugh Massman, his wife and their infant son. Hugh Massman is a second class petty officer in the navy, a student at the Naval Air Station, in the last month of training before sea duty.Lynn Massman giving instructions to the volunteer worker at the nursery in the United Nations service center who will take care of her eight-weeks-old baby for the day." (1943) Photo by Esther Bubley. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

***Military families often live a vagabond existence– moving frequently from place to place and having to form new connections and friendships constantly.  Fortunately, the military (and the military spouses themselves) have organized numerous support networks to help families with all of these transitions.  This month, Ruly Ruth shares some of the emergency planning lessons she has learned as a military spouse.***

 

Mom down! Dad Down! Probably the worst possible cry ever! We are the ones on the front lines of the family life.  We know where and when our kids go to school, soccer, music, where their doctor is, what kind of pet food to buy, how often to feed, and if there are daily meds for the kids.  I can’t imagine being unconscious God forbid! And I’m sure that goes for many of you!

An amazing Commanding Officer’s wife Susan Berry, wife of Navy Capt Don Berry, created the Family Emergency Form below. EVERYONE–please print it out and fill it out!  It points out we should all get a medical power of attorney!! Give a copy to your local best friend, keep a copy in a sealed envelope with you–and tell someone where it is in an emergency. This information could save a ton of time in a worst-case scenario, so at least the kids and pets can have a normalized life even during a crisis! Update it quarterly since for most of us that’s when lessons change for our kids.

Thank you, and Semper Prepared! (I’m off to fill mine out right now!)

-Ruly Ruth

Posted by ruth Tagged with: , , ,
Sep 052011

As I wrote about last year, if you are on Facebook or Twitter, it is a really good idea to “Like” or “Follow” FEMA and your local emergency management association. You will be among the first to know about any pending emergency situations pertinent to your area and get helpful tips.

For example, FEMA has been encouraging people to get prepared for hurricanes since at least June and after Hurricane Irene, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management has been posting tips on everything from where to find emergency shelters to how to safely operate generators and chainsaws.

If you do only one emergency preparedness task this month, take one minute and do this one!

*If you don’t use Facebook or Twitter, there is an alternate low-tech solution you can use to get the same information.  All Twitter accounts and public-oriented Facebook pages can be viewed in a standard Internet browser.  So, you can just bookmark the Twitter feed or Facebook page you might need to keep up with and check in with it from time to time or during an emergency.  Of course, you won’t be alerted when the page/feed is updated and you won’t be able to comment or tweet back to the writer of the message without creating a Facebook or Twitter account, but you can at least view any information that has been posted.  You can try this out by visiting the links I provided above.

Posted by anne Tagged with: ,
Oct 012010

In the month of September, we focused on improving and organizing our communications.

Chik-fil-A's local sign.

Local car communications.

I started off the month sharing my own communication strategy and some of the common reasons I hear as to why people don’t want to participate in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

For yet another anti-Facebook perspective, I encourage you to read the article below from Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post. In addition to being a screamingly funny humorist, Mr. Weingarten is an incredible writer and is a master of vocabulary and phrasing.

“Critics contend I am unfair to Facebook merely because I have described it as an ocean of banalities shared among persons with lives so empty they echo. I defend my thesis but admit my evidence has been unscientific — entirely anecdotal — based on my occasional dips into this tepid, lifeless lagoon of dishwater-dull discourse. . . . But that has changed. I find that it is now possible to mathematically quantify the tedium, thanks to a new Web site. . . . I have done so and am here to make my report.”

–Gene Weingarten, “I hate Facebook sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. . .The Washington Post, September 26, 2010.

We discussed how to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-the-minute emergency preparedness information from agencies like FEMA and state emergency management agencies. If you have not signed up for your local updates, I strongly encourage you to do so. So far, the information I have received about hurricane and flood updates has been enormously helpful here in Virginia.

We looked at the new 2011 IKEA Catalog and discussed the creativity in IKEA’s communication strategy.

I reviewed The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein and put the tips to good use. My Twitter following increased slightly once I started following Sarah Milstein and I have now connected with more incredible small business owners.

One thing I did not discuss from The Twitter Book (and other sources) is that it is recommended that you roughly post 3 times as many retweets and references to other people’s content for every one you post about yourself. Since so far I have only been posting my own content, starting next week, I aim to retweet interesting posts by my Twitter connections each week. I am not sure if I will get to the 3:1 ratio immediately but this will be a good start.

One humorous Tweet on my account this month came from an anonymous source under the age of 5. “I” tweeted:

Unfortunately, since this tweet propagated through my various accounts, a LinkedIn contact wrote back to alert me of this cryptic missive wanting to know if my Blackberry was in my pocket.

I checked my Twitter account to find not only had “I” tweeted, “I” had also managed to create a list with a similarly cryptic name and added myself to that list. It took me over 10 minutes of Twitter help research to figure out how to delete that listing. Our children are definitely born wired for this new communication style but I can’t believe that it already starts so young!

I gave tips for organizing personal and business email accounts and we looked at the latest features in Gmail and Microsoft Exchange.

I posted fall gardening tips and discussed the challenges of communicating with gardeners (and other professions) who may have limited access to computers and the Internet for a variety of reasons.

Lou quipped:

“I kept waiting for the part to learn how to ‘communicate’ with the gardener. We just wanted the bushes trimmed, but left with their natural look—but whatever it was we thought we ‘communicated’ with the gardener, they all ended up looking like just-groomed french poodles!”

We looked to Dale Carnegie, master of making friends, and adapted his classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, for the age of Facebook.

Many thanks to Dale Carnegie Training of South Florida and The Dale Carnegie Way for posting links to this article on their blogs.

My dad also sent me a good comment saying that under the smile category I should add:

“He would smile for the camera.”

True enough. Dale Carnegie would probably post a smiling picture of himself on Facebook rather than an oddly artistic pose, a mysterious/unidentifiable shot or an angry/sad/scared shot. It is the easiest way to show everyone your smile!

Ruly Ruth shared her communication style and gave advice on 5 challenging Facebook social situations.

We discussed using a vision board as a motivational tool to inspire better communications (or other goals).

Constance Theodore commented on Facebook:

“My life has been directed by “lists” which is a literary vision board. A check on the item number when completed signals an attack on the next number.”

This was a great comment because it highlighted thinking differences. Some people respond better to words and others to pictures. A vision board is a little different from a list in that a list is a set of defined instructions. The vision board is not really an instruction to do anything. It’s more like a subliminal message that you need to realize over time. You still will need your to do list but the vision board might give you the inspiration to actually do the items on your list.

We discussed how to recover from a communication mistake, taking lessons from my 401(k) plan and comedian Mo Rocca.

Samuel Pushpak provided a great Ruly Mix, “Hello Love,” inspired by a romantic portrait from photographer Michael Costa. I e-mailed Michael to make sure he knew about the song and he e-mailed back:

“Hi Anne, wow that is really special. Thanks so much for emailing me about that, I had no idea. If you speak to Samuel, let him know that I was honored.”

Michael does wonderful wedding and engagement photography in addition to other types of photography. If you scroll through the photographs on his website, you get a real sense of the romantic energy Samuel integrated into his song.

Guest blogger Kristin Jolley shared her own communication strategy as well as tips for more effective communication.

We also discussed Stever Robbins’ latest communication, his new book Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More

In the News

Twitter and Facebook signs at our local library.

As I was walking around town this week looking for examples of local Fredericksburg communication style, I came across a great example in our local library.  Our library has both Facebook and Twitter accounts but is most famous now for its viral video “I Will Survive,” demonstrating their commitment to providing excellent library services even in the face of budget shortfalls.  You can watch the video below.  I can personally attest to the dedication of our local librarians.  The book displays, programs and general energy of the library are top notch and it is a wonderful resource for the whole community.

Thinking back to my articles on Washington Style in August, I came across this great video in The Wall Street Journal discussing the politics of wearing jeans in Washington. It perfectly captures how fashion is thought about in Washington. It’s a much more cerebral than artistic exercise. It’s not only about how something looks on you but about how other people view that fashion and what precedent the fashion creates for society in general in a particular setting. I wonder if any other city politicizes their clothing as much as Washingtonians do.

Thank you for joining me for another Ruly month! Back on Monday to introduce a new theme. Have a great weekend!

Posted by anne Tagged with: ,
Sep 272010

Brief introduction: My name is Kristin Jolley and I have been an online marketer for over a decade, with specific expertise in direct response marketing. I am currently the Director of Media for a direct response lead generation company in Salt Lake City, Utah that specializes in online education. I am also Anne’s sister-in-law. ☺

Doing what I do, about 80% of my communicating is via the Internet: email, instant messenger (IM), social media outlets, etc. I do use the telephone – conference calls are a daily event – but the majority of information transferred between my employees, my boss, my vendors, and my clients is through email and IM.

Never in the history of the world have we been able to communicate with so many people – uniquely and individually – virtually at the same time. And I do mean “virtually.” The information-sharing wonders of the Internet have opened a door in increasing the common knowledge base, while the social media phenomenons of the last few years have given the general public the ability to share their thoughts and ideas with ease. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, and WordPress are just a few of the social media giants that happily share our “likes,” “digs,” posts, and “tweets.”

If you are over thirty, you may still be struggling with the “right” way to incorporate these new mediums into your daily communications. In my opinion, there is no “right” way… no “have to”… no “can’t miss.” What works for you is the best solution.

I would, however, recommend the following guidelines for all electronic communication:

Be Predictable

If you are going to be on Facebook, check your Facebook account daily. If you are going to be on Twitter, tweet once in a while. If you are going to blog, set the right expectation with your readers of how frequently you will be blogging and then stick to it. (As I write this, I realize that I have broken all of these rules at some point in my life… it’s not easy, but it’s the right way to do it.)

Consistency is key, especially if we are talking about professional communication. Say what you are going to do and then do it. Don’t have an email account that you never check. Get rid of it, or forward it to one that you do check regularly. Don’t ask for Twitter followers if you aren’t going to give them anything to follow.

“Don’t Make Me Think”

I love this advice from my favorite web site usability expert, Steve Krug. In his book, Don’t Make Me Think!, he states that great web design comes by using (or providing) solutions that are common sense. Don’t make your audience struggle! While online retailers need to put their shopping carts where people will look for them, we need to put our name, phone, email, address, etc. where people will find them.

Here are a few ideas to help people communicate with you:

  • Make sure you have an email signature (that thing that automatically attaches to the bottom of all your emails).
  • If you are away and will not be replying to email soon, set an auto-responder that states that. Include when you will be replying to email and if there is somewhere else or someone else they can contact in the interim. Don’t leave them hanging!
  • Check your email regularly – whatever “regularly” means for you. If you don’t check it every day, tell people that when you give them your email address and give them another option for contacting you (phone, text, etc.).

In general, don’t make it a difficult – or even annoying – task for people to get in touch with you. In both personal and professional contexts, an inconvenience of connection could be a major deterrent.

Be Professional

  • Keep the emoticons to a minimum. Enough said.
  • Do not use all-caps. It is perceived as shouting.
  • Use correct grammar and capitalization for email and IM.
  • Refrain from vulgarity.

Keep it Confidential
I highly recommend being as private on the Internet as possible. Not only is identity theft a serious concern, but you want to make sure your family and home are protected as well. Don’t allow yourself to be easy prey. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t post your birth date (especially the year!) on your blog, Facebook, etc.
  • Don’t give too much information about where you live, your family, your children, etc.
  • If you have a blog and would like to share details about your family, photos of your children, mention that you are going out of town (and leaving your house unattended!), make your blog “private” and invite only certain people to view it.
  • Do some “ego-surfing” (Google your name and variations of it) to see if there is any sensitive information open to the public. If so, contact the appropriate party to have it removed.
  • Set appropriate privacy settings on Facebook, Amazon.com, LinkedIn, to only reveal certain information to the public and certain other information to friends.

Selfish Plea

Since I’ve got your ear, I would also suggest not participating in any of the annoying Facebook games (Farmville, etc.) or passing along email strings (ugh). No one likes them, really. If you do want to forward an email, be sure to delete the email addresses of anyone else that it has been forwarded to, and then put all of your recipients in the “bcc” line. It is the proper thing to do.

If you have questions or would like more details about any of the above topics, I would love to know. Thanks for letting me guest blog!

Posted by anne Tagged with: , ,
Sep 082010

If you are over the age of 25, Twitter is most likely a complete mystery. You may have heard bits and pieces about Twitter and figure that it has something to do with sending messages with lots of acronyms and juvenile abbreviations like:

r u organized? Find gr8 tips 2 help u @ beruly.com.

I have to admit that I had no interest in using Twitter and figured it just wasn’t a medium that fit my strengths well. Then I read an article in a business publication recommending that a good way to gauge a prospective business partner is to read the last couple of tweets the person wrote, since the content is both brief and freshly produced. Reluctantly, I set up a Twitter account.

What on earth is Twitter? How do you use it and not look ridiculous? Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein have written a concise but thought-provoking book, called simply, The Twitter Book, to help the Twitter novice understand the Twitter universe. The book is written much the way Twitter functions with short paragraphs of text on the right-hand pages combined with example Tweets on the left-hand pages. The book doesn’t go into great detail on any one topic but rather gives you a quick reference on a variety of ways to use Twitter.

I really wish I would have read The Twitter Book before I set up my own Twitter account as I am now painfully aware of numerous mistakes I have made (and see other Twitterers making as well).

Backing up for just a minute, though. If you still have no idea what Twitter is, allow me to give a very brief Twitter-like explanation:

What are you doing? 140 characters. 5 minutes of fame.

Twitter is a social network where people joining the network communicate using only 140 characters or less (a limit imposed by cell phone text messaging systems). The messages are stream of consciousness writing answering the question “What are you doing/thinking?” Your answer to the question may change minute by minute and your answer doesn’t have to respond to anything anyone else has already said. This is the part of Twitter that was really hard for me to grasp. There is no situation in real world social life that is similar. It would be kind of like everyone driving down the highway opening their windows and yelling out random things. You might hear a lot of useless noise or you might hear something helpful and interesting depending on who you are listening to.

Twitter messages can be viewed on cell phones or on the computer. You can also post links, including links to photos. Anyone can read your messages and you can subscribe to other people’s Twitter posts by “following” them or just looking at their Twitter web page. You can spread someone else’s message by “retweeting” it yourself or have a public or private conversation with individual users. The @ sign to refer publicly to an individual person is a Twitter invention, which some people use in other contexts. For example, someone could Twitter:

@rulyllc Great tip! Thanks!

According to The Twitter Book, the average Twitter message has a lifespan of about 5 minutes. Generally, if your tweet is considered interesting, it will be retweeted or shared by others within 5 minutes of your posting. After 5 minutes, the chance anyone will even notice it starts dropping quickly to zero.

The Twitter Book gives a little background on these basic fundamentals and then gives examples of different contexts where you might use Twitter, either as a user or a researcher. Below I will share just a few of the gems in this book:

Twitter Research

Even if you have no desire to create a Twitter account, Twitter can be a great way to monitor mentions about your business. O’Reilly and Milstein give several great ideas here including the following:

  1. Track Twitter mentions of your company’s name. Go to search.twitter.com and you can see who is talking about your company and what they are saying.  If you want to continually monitor any tweets about your company, you can pull the RSS feed or use a service like TweetBeep to receive emails when your keywords are mentioned.
  2. Track Twittered links to your website. Wondering if anyone is Twittering a link to your website? Go to backtweets.com, type in your company’s website to see a list. You can even be alerted by email when a link to your website is tweeted.

Tweeting Tips

Some of the most valuable parts of The Twitter Book are the quick etiquette tips about the Twitter community. For example:

  1. Reply to all of your @ messages where you are addressed directly (unless you think it may be spam).
  2. Don’t use up all 140 characters to allow space for people to retweet your posts. The magic formula for your own character limit is 140 minus 4 characters (for RT a space and the @ sign) minus the number of characters in your Twitter username. In my case, that number is 129 characters.
  3. If you retweet someone else’s post, make sure they are credited with the @ sign (including all people in the message chain where possible, or if not possible due to the character limit, just the first and last person) and maintain their shortened links as they have posted them.
  4. If you quote someone who is not on Twitter, use the word “via” to reference where you got the information from.
  5. It’s considered lame to reply to followers with a “Thanks for the follow.” routine message. It is far better to find something interesting they have said and retweet it or call them out with a personalized @ message.

Twitter Visibility

Businesses will especially appreciate the tips in The Twitter Book on attracting followers and visibility. Some of the tips will require time and effort (such as following interesting people and retweeting interesting tweets) but some are pretty simple. For example:

  1. To get your Tweets more visibility, learn the Twitter filing system: “hashtags.” Hashtags are keywords with a pound or hash sign in front of them. For example, the hashtag for The Twitter Book is #TwitterBook. If you add a hashtag to your tweets, they will be added to the group of tweets with that same hashtag. To find a list of hashtags, visit hashtags.org.
  2. If you are using a Twitter account for your business, put your business name in the “Name” field in your profile rather than the actual name of the person Twittering to make it easier for people to search and find your business.
  3. Follow journalists who are looking to write stories in your industry. For example, “Help a Reporter Out” or HARO is Twitter user @petershankman who routinely posts requests for sources from reporters.

If you find the above tips helpful, you will find so many more in The Twitter Book. It is a really quick read in addition to being a solid reference book.

I’m still thinking through the concept of Twitter and how I could use it better. Would readers really want to know my spur-of-the-moment thoughts as I unclutter something or photos of new organizing tools the moment I discover them? Am I comfortable sharing those unpolished thoughts? There are definitely some pitfalls to Twitter but there is no denying it is a powerful communications tool for those who know how to use it.

Do you use Twitter? Have a Twitter tip or a Twitter question? Please share in the comments.

Posted by anne Tagged with: ,
Sep 032010

One of the great benefits of modern communications technology is the ability to transmit life-saving information rapidly to large numbers of people during an emergency situation.

"Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Wheeler, a U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer, radios to a Coast Guard HH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter during a search and rescue case in Oxbow N.D., March 26, 2009." Photo by Chuck Simmins. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

September is National Preparedness Month in the United States and Ready.gov encourages all of us to review our emergency preparations this month. Those of us on the east coast of the United States are getting a real life reminder in the form of Hurricane Earl, which fortunately has changed course and is not predicted to cause significant damage.

As you review your emergency preparations this month, don’t forget to update your emergency communications! While most people primarily rely on local or national news for emergency alerts, social networking is a new and growing tool in emergency management and there is plenty of current, local information available if you just know where to look. In just a few minutes or less, you can connect to receive valuable information that just might save your life!

1. National Emergency Information

FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a Twitter feed with information on major national emergencies. Hurricane Earl is the primary topic of late. FEMA’s Twitter feed is followed by 17, 356 people and agencies. FEMA also has a Facebook page with 16,303 fans.  If you don’t participate in social networking, you can also sign up to receive email alerts from FEMA at this link.

2. Local Emergency Information

Since FEMA covers a huge territory and can’t possibly stay on top of every local emergency, it is good idea to stay in touch with your local emergency management department as well. Ready.gov provides this indexed map where you can click on your state and find your local emergency contacts. Nearly all of these agencies have Twitter or Facebook pages to share information. Some also offer email or cell phone text alerts.

In Virginia, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management has a Twitter feed and Facebook page as well as e-mail alerts.  For those in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, CapitAlert is a service for traffic, weather, terrorism and other alerts through the coordinated efforts of the governments of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

3. Really Local Information

Some of the best communications networks to have in your emergency planning are the immediate neighbors on your street. Setting up a neighborhood directory, Facebook page or Twitter account is a great way to enable neighbors to help each other. You never know when you might be stranded and need the help of those closest to you. Our neighborhood learned this lesson during last year’s severe snowstorms.

Has anyone been saved by social networking alerts though? Actually, yes! While the numbers aren’t large, there are many incredible stories of people being saved by technology.

Emergency preparedness is one of the feel-good benefits of our increasing interconnection through social networking. You never know when you could be the “friend” or “follower” that makes the difference.

What resources do you rely on for emergency information? Have a social networking rescue story to tell? Please share in the comments.

To my U.S. readers, have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Posted by anne Tagged with: , ,
Sep 012010

It’s the start of a new month and that means a new theme here at Ruly. In September, we are going to be discussing one of the most vital components of success in your personal and business life . . . communication.

"Classic Red London Telephone Boxes," Photo by niai. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

"LinkedIn Centipede Participants in the 2010 ING Bay to Breakers." Photo by smi23le. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

In 2010, there are so many ways to communicate with people: in-person contact, telephone, snail mail, email, fax, texting, videochat, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. etc. With all of the ways to communicate, how do you stay on top of all that information? How do you know which is the best way to reach someone? Are new social etiquette rules being formed?

The world of digital communication is evolving so quickly that I don’t think there is one “right” way to communicate. There are a variety of communication strategies and I invite you to share yours! If you are interested in writing a guest blog this month about your personal and/or business communications strategy or even an anonymous rant sharing your frustrations with communicating in the 21st century, please contact me at info@beruly.com. In exchange for your well-crafted words, I would be happy to include in the post a short blurb about your product or service (if applicable) or guest blog on your site in return.

To start, I will share with you my own communications strategy, which I consider a work in progress.

From a business perspective, it has been my philosophy that I want to make it as easy as possible for readers and prospective clients to stay up to date on what I am doing and to contact me. I try to speak their “language” and have this blog, a private email list as well as accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I generally have the same information updated in all these places continually. I try not to put information in one place that is not reflected in the others since I think it is unrealistic to expect that people will want to take the time to stay up to date on every communication I write in every medium. I also don’t want people to feel alienated if they miss out on something on a network they don’t use.

In other projects I am working on currently, I have the challenge of communicating with a mixed group of people, some of whom use the Internet and some who don’t. It becomes even more difficult to print and mail paper documents reflecting the substance of what occurs in Internet discussions. There is a definite generation gap at work where the majority of the people not using the Internet are older people. Bridging the gap between the digital and paper worlds is tough and time consuming and, despite best efforts, there is always at least some information that never makes it to the paper world.

From a personal perspective, my contacts are all over the place. Some I only ever see in person.  There are some that require paper/snail mail communications (including hard copy photos). Some want the telephone. Most use email. Some text by cell phone. A few are on Facebook and almost none are on Twitter.

Among many people I know, social networking is a hard sell for a variety of reasons. The most common objections I hear are:

1. Fear of humiliation/embarrassment. If you have worked hard to build a reputation in your business life and maintaining that reputation is essential to your job, Facebook can fairly be perceived as having more negatives than positives. The big challenge of Facebook is that you are connecting people from various parts of your personal and professional life into one big group of “friends.” While in the real world, you might selectively share different kinds of information with each group, on Facebook, it is all one big pool. If just one friend posts something inappropriate, whether about you or about them, you could alienate contacts instantly that may have taken years to build. Many people view this downside as outweighing any benefit to Facebook and simply opt out of the process.

2. Intimidation by the online popularity contest. Popularity contests are only fun for popular people. Facebook and Twitter give you the “benefit” of numerically calculating exactly how many friends and followers you have. Who wants to go on the record publicly saying, “Hello, World! I have exactly 2 friends.” I have learned not to assign any value, however to the number of online friends a person has. When I did a quick inventory of my own Facebook friends, I was surprised to find that the people I know who are incredibly popular in real life didn’t have the most online friends while some of my less popular friends had enormous numbers of online friends.

3. It’s uncool. There seems to be a bit of a generation gap (or maybe a personality gap) between my generation and the younger generations that built Facebook and Twitter into the powerhouses they are today. Many of my peers think it is tremendously uncool to join a big group for any reason. They want to be individuals. Fanning a business or joining a cause is something they only do because they have to for some other reason (a relative owns it or they are raising money for a cause). They also think it is geeky to spend so much time on the Internet. The whole concept of social networking is unpleasing to them. Take for example the quotes below:

“So it came to pass that I started logging on to Facebook. And, like seemingly everyone else I’d ever met, eventually S “friended” me. My policy has been always to accept whoever asks, no question, and never to friend anyone myself. (In this way I maintain the fiction that I’m not an active user.)”

–Kate Bolick, “A Death on Facebook,” The Atlantic, September 2010

“I am still trying to keep my daily screen-time to the absolute minimum. Those of you who are trying to find me on Facebook, please be warned that I will probably never find the time to become your friend. But I do love you.”

–Artist Alex Martin of The Little Brown Dress Project fame.

I seem to meet a lot of these individualistic friends. Even when I have tried to friend them on Facebook, I run into that awkward privacy screen where Facebook basically says, “Yes, this person is a user but no you cannot contact them even to ask whether they will be your friend. They are in the Facebook void.”

Even if you do manage to friend someone, there is always the chance they are “ignoring” you electronically without your knowledge. The Washington Post recently wrote about new technologies to block Twitter communications from unwanted users:

“The problem with one big water cooler is that you don’t always want to be at the water cooler with everyone all the time,” said Bretton MacLean, a Toronto developer of a popular iPhone app called TweetAgora, which lets users block unwanted tweets without the tweeter ever knowing. As the company puts it, “Some people are great in real life but just plain suck at Twitter.”

–Michael S. Rosenwald, “Too much Tweeting from Twitter friends? There’s an iPhone app for that — and some other ways to get anti-social on networks.” The Washington Post, August 29, 2010.

And yet even if these three objections speak loudly and clearly to you and Facebook and Twitter seem like too much drama, I don’t think any of us, particularly those in business, can ignore social networking entirely. Just like those who don’t want to learn the Internet and want everything mailed or telephoned, you can’t expect that everyone else is going to cater your needs.

It seems that social networking is here to stay although I am sure it will probably continue to evolve and improve over time. The number of people we can connect with is truly incredible. I do sense a little social fatigue setting in, though. Sometimes we don’t want key life events shared in one mass mailing. We miss the intimacy of the slow-moving social grapevine–being the first to know rather than just “one of the friends.”  This may be something we see addressed in future versions of social networks.

How do you communicate with your friends, family and business associates? Do you have a suggestion for me to improve Ruly’s communication strategy? Please share in the comments. And if you want to guest blog this month, please contact me at info@beruly.com.

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