The summer social media cleanup session

Last week I had leaky capacitors on my Dell Optiplex, I couldn’t get any reception on my iPhone 4 because my hands were shorting out the antenna, my Toyota nearly killed me due to faulty parts and the waters of the Mississippi continued to rise. I think I need to call my own personal liability lawyer just to get out of bed.

Maybe I am just feeling my own mortality a bit more. We are all getting older, and no place is that more true than on Facebook, where the fastest growing population segment is the over 65-set. Yes, kids, grandma and grandpa have discovered your digital playground. And they are there to stay, too.

It does seem that our digital lives have gotten more complicated lately too. What with posting all my status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, sending to my network the latest books that I am reading on Goodreads.com, my current location on FourSquare.com, tagging various pieces of content to Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon, posting restaurant reviews to Urbanspoon, recommending songs that I like to Pandora, there are only so many hours in the day left to delete all those male enhancement emails, including the ones I am now getting in Chinese.

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate a bit: I do have a spam folder and it works rather well. But it does seem that there is a social network for just about every aspect of our daily lives, and what few places are absent it is only a matter of time before someone invents one.

In that spirit, it is worth taking a look at an essay that I wrote about social networking policies about a year ago if you don’t remember it.

Since then, I have had some other thoughts. One of the comments was “the [users of social networks] should be aware that their colleagues, bosses and/or prospective ones are now watching.” And now you can add your grandparents to that list too.

Certainly, what you post can influence your job-hunting prospects. We now have the ritual purging of pictures and posts every June, right after the graduation parties and requisite summer European discovery backpacking trip (or better yet, now there is Couchsurfing.com, a social network for people who want to crash on your couch).

One young 20-something that I know who is entering the job market wrote to me asking me for my recommendation letter of reference. We emailed back and forth about taking down his Facebook party pix, and I reminded him that it wasn’t just his own photo albums that he had to be worried about – what about those pictures that he was tagged that could create problems too? He had it covered. But I know that many recent grads aren’t as thorough, or as concerned. They should be. I hear from hiring managers all the time that these digital travails can make the difference between one candidate and another getting an offer letter.

And then there is the issue that earlier this summer reporter Octavia Nasr left CNN after a Tweet she posted praising a leader of Hezbollah. Never have 140 characters had a bigger personal impact.

Given this uptake in social media among consumers, businesses still haven’t gotten on board. A recent Yankee Group study shows that a third of those polled have no formal processes in place or any social media corporate usage policies, do not allow the use of social media at work or have no idea if their company participates in social media. And while social media growth among my generation is happening quickly, the study found that half of the over 50 respondents stated that it wasn’t important for a business to have any social media presence.

We all have a lot to learn about how to use these tools – young and old alike.

3 thoughts on “The summer social media cleanup session

  1. Aren’t we just waiting for the app that manages all social media for just me?……..a personalized search engine that works for me alone, constantly combing the internet and social media sites for any reference to me (or anyone else I want to specify)so those references can be scrubbed, deleted, improved, or otherwise modified to my liking? If you’re selling one of these (and someone will be soon if they’re not already), I’m a buyer!!

    • You have some primitive beginnings of these tools, like iGoogle’s news reader and Pageflakes.com. There are other Twitter-based news and search aggregators that are coming along as well.

  2. Tony Stirk writes in:
    Social media is NOT business media. All of the status updates that you spoke of posting are non-business related productivity killers. Frankly, in my private time, I don’t care if my friends are going to a particular restaurant or not. I do not want to be constantly interrupted with tweets or other time wasters. As a security guy, I’m not happy with people sharing intimate details of their lives that could be used by the bad guys to penetrate our corporate networks. Security on many of these sites is terrible and could serve as a way to get around our defenses. I *might* use these networks to gain competetive intelligence on your company, to improve my marketing, or to find out who I can call on for business, though these non-official sources must be taken with a grain of salt. I can use them to dope out office politics and use various gripes to target my pitch to the right person.

    We had a lively discussion list with 1000 resellers across the US in the ASCII group. Then someone had to “fix” it and make it more relevant. They went to various rooms, digests, and on line access. Participation and relevance died. The list got cancelled. We brought it back and signed everyone up and made sure everyone got every message. Again, it is now considered a great success and one of the big benefits of being part of this membership organization. KISS works.

    I’m not saying that marketers, salespeople, private detectives, HR types, and others shouldn’t use social media to get the dirt on someone or some company. Even there I have issues with the cost/benefit ratio of doing so for a business. Outside of this group, I find it unlikely that there is a business benefit, especially for public social networks. There is a lot of data in social networks, but precious little useful information applicable to business.

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