It’s New Years Eve, 2008; Wow! what an amazing year it’s been, through the tumultuous election process and downturn in economy, we are still hanging in here, and feel quite blessed to be at home with family today. Among other things, this has been a year in which I delved headlong into social networking, and it has been fun and rewarding for me both personally and professionally. I have gathered a few thoughts here, that I hope will benefit others, so here we go…
Connections are important, but content is powerful.
I was resistant to the social networking / blogging idea until I began to see the hidden potential for my businesses, and our developing music and documentary film projects. I established our first business site Trace Productions in 1998, and have added two more since, with the help of excellent site designs by cdmgrafx. Through the years our business has been greatly enhanced by the websites, in real business terms, but also in another less definable benefit: the interaction with people all over the world who have sought my services, or expressed an interest, or a common history and wanted to contact me. I’ve been a believer in Internet marketing, and have published an email newsletter to a fairly broad contact base for years, but until this past year, never pursued social networking outlets.
I started using Plaxo some years ago, but didn’t understand the implications. I signed up with Linkedin, but again, didn’t really “get it.” Then my daughter, like millions of teens was pulled into the MySpace world with all her little buddies. I was a crusty old Dad and put on my furrowed brow and scowled about it a bit, but then decided to check it out for myself. I found that many of my professional musician and filmmaker friends were using MySpace to their benefit, and I was hooked. I had similar occurrences with FaceBook and Youtube. Slowly I began to understand the social networking concept, the rewards and the limitations. The thing that is clear is that content means everything. If you don’t have something interesting to say, people don’t listen. You can post all the videos on YouTube you want but if they are not informative, interesting, funny or curious in some sort of way to a broad base of people, its not really going to go anywhere. You can have a blog, but if it’s boring or just completely self-serving, who is going to care? So, the trick is to move forward and reach out, but have something to offer. I would encourage all to engage in social networking but to do so with purpose, and think about this:
What’s the worse that could happen?
Social networking is a free thing (and who doesn’t like that?), and if you are sitting at the house bored, unemployed or both, why not jump in? What you have to gain are connections, knowledge, friendship, business. What do you have to lose? Time? I spend 15-30 minutes a day, but sometimes get sucked into more, because I have fun with it. You could spend as little as 5 minutes a day and still gradually build a database of others who have similar interests, possible job openings, etc. What’s the worse that could happen? You could spend a little time that was otherwise spent in front of the TV and get nothing out of it that interested you. Really, that can’t happen, if you do it right. Or, you could post something that annoys or angers someone else to the point that they start badmouthing you all over the Internet or stalk you at your home. Again, do it right and that won’t happen, which brings me to my next point for this New Year’s missive.
Be careful, but have fun… most importantly, have fun.
Use common sense. Simple. Don’t put your home address anywhere on your websites, blogs, profiles, anywhere. I keep a business mailing address that is posted on my sites, but it’s no one’s business where I live. Also, and I can’t stress this enough, avoid personal attacks at all costs. Try to follow the age old advice “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is sometimes hard to follow, in life, and on the Internet, but it is vital to your social networking efforts. Engaging in conversations online about things that you are passionate about is great for building your rankings in the search engines, but watch your words! If you take issue with something someone has posted in any sort of online forum, respond with fact and supportable opinion, but do not attack the person who posted it. Likewise as soon as someone engages in any personal attack against you, restate your qualified opinion and supportable facts on the subject at hand, and then let it go – disengage from the conversation. I have seen too many instances of people getting involved in a “tit-for-tat” argument online that quickly dissolves into juvenile name-calling antics, resulting in all involved parties looking like fools. Remember, the Internet is full of kooks, but plenty of sensible people too. Sometimes its hard to tell who the kooks are at first, but watch what people write about on a regular basis, and soon the kooks’ creepy true colors come through – once you’ve figured out someone is a blathering idiot, leave it alone, don’t waste your time arguing with cretins! (Hey I used the word cretin in a sentence! hahaha).
What about the fun?
Look at it as a game, or a roomful of games. Social networking is a big casino, with lots of rooms with games of chance and the perfect place to people-watch! When I go to Vegas, that’s what I love to do; play some games, watch the parade of life. It’s the same with social networking, but the admission is free, you can stay as long as you can stand it, and all you are risking is time (and personal integrity, see points made above). Every group you join is another craps, blackjack or poker table and you are risking your time trying to win more business, more friends, more information, whatever. Sometimes you join a group (game) that doesn’t fit you – you don’t get along with the people around you, you don’t like the dealer, you think the game is rigged, or whatever – So what? It’s a big casino; have a drink and move to another table, for goodness sakes. Don’t sit there arguing with the idiot insurance guy from Idaho sitting next to you, when there is a table full of more intriguing folks just across the room. Mingle, get to know lots of people, play some games, have fun.
Also, know when to step away. Sometimes you do need to lay out on the couch and read a good book or watch a mindless TV show. Give yourself balance. If you are engaging in social networking and it stops being fun or helpful to you, step away. Forget about it awhile. Don’t get so wrapped in it that it becomes “work”.
Learn to improvise, in life in general. My friend Les McGehee has written an excellent book on the subject titled “Plays Well With Others” which I highly recommend.
Pick and choose
You don’t have to join every networking service that people invite you to. For our purposes, we have different profiles for music and for filmmaking on MySpace, a FaceBook account, a Linkedin Profile, and YouTube profiles. These make sense for my interests and business development. Often, I just copy and paste same information on all profiles, because there are different people connecting to me from a variety of sources. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel or spend extra time creating variations of posts for different outlets. I get plenty of offers to connect in other places, but I have chosen these to actively participate in. Choose networking sites that make sense for you and your business, but limit them in a way that makes it easy for you to keep up with. Also, don’t feel like you have to accept every “add a friend” that you receive. If you don’t know the person requesting connection, look at their profile, see if they may be an interesting connection for you. If not, just politely decline, it’s really no big deal. There’s no harm, no foul in saying no thanks.
Just like you would be the clod of the month for sitting in the casino drinking and gambling while your wife and kids or parents and grandparents were needing you, don’t bury yourself in the social networking thing at the expense of your family. The real people in your life are the ones you know you could call anytime, anywhere and they would help you. Make sure those people know you are there for them, above all else, because a game is just a game, and family is life.
Those are my thoughts moving forward into the new year. You can peruse our business websites and all of our chosen online connections at TraceTV.tv
Wishing you a joyous and prosperous new year!