Social Networks are destroying families… or…

“Social Networks are destroying families” Really? Is that the best you can come up with?

A day doesn’t go by when we see a headline about Social Networks are going to end life as we know it, not always in a good way. How these systems have destroyed people talking to each other. How families are broken apart because they don’t communicate anymore.

Maybe they should be looking internal rather than redirecting the blame.

Sure, it is easy to get lost in the fog of millions of people all talking up their day and interests. All making for a easy pull on one’s time and thus less time with the family. Let’s explore how to make the world of Social Networks ‘work for you’ rather than against.

Why do we ‘socialize’ online? To meet friends, live a different life where no one knows us, gather information, banter with ol’ friends, or for Business. Nothing says it can’t be multiples of these but generally folks drop into one bucket.

If you want to live a different life online – other than your avatar image, no one knows who you are so you can be anything to anyone. It’s all about feeding your ego. If this is you, then go ahead and write off your family now, you must be missing something in your offline life that you either need to work out with loved ones or move on. Sooner or later the two will come together and it is NEVER pretty.

Meeting new friends that you might have something in common with online is just what most people do. You can share things in your life and enjoy hearing about far away places. While you don’t want to post up to the world every fact about your life (it will haunt you later), friends online are much more about not having to second guess what you are talking about. The most fun I have in this group is learning about cultures and how people from somewhere else views what you live every day. It can be eye opening to hear about what someone else knows as facts versus what you know as ‘fact’ – Read: different country news agencies.

The trick to this type of online ‘life’ is to keep it manageable. If your on Twitter… there is no way your going to be able to actually ‘follow’ and relate to more than a few hundred. I limit myself to 200 follows so I can really understand what is happening. Other people can follow 500 (depends on how often the people you follow actually post). The people that are following 1000 can not honestly say what half of those posts are or what they relate to if it is in a conversation.

By limiting your following to a manageable (enjoyable) size, you are also able to manage the amount of time it takes to ‘check in’ with your group. You will quickly learn which you need to read in depth and which you keep an eye on without thinking you will need to respond. Depending on your home relationships, it usually wont hurt to talk about what is being posted too. It makes that world more open to the family around you. Of course, back off if they start getting short about what your ‘friends’ are doing. Generally though, who you follow would be close to who family members would follow so they might enjoy hearing about other places or opinions. It will definitely help conversing with others outside of the family too.

Generally, Facebook is more about your old friends or coworkers. There is more an opportunity to banter with someone you directly know and others to chime in. Seeing the whole conversation in their regular UI (most other social sites need 3rd party apps to see a conversation string wrapped together). Once again, I have seen many times a late night post or party image on Facebook bite the posting person later. NOTHING EVER GOES AWAY! Even if you delete it. Also, on Facebook, others can ID you in a image and that can be found by anyone happening upon that image via a friends’ friends’ friend… keep it real!

For people doing ‘Business’ via social networks, you will either look to market to anyone who will listen by creating a Business area on Facebook. Or, in the case of Twitter, you have a couple options. You need followers for your message to get out to a high enough percentage you stand to get a response. You can do this by posting what your interested in and your list will grow, or you can play the follow to get followers game. Commenting on other popular twitters and getting them to respond will drive a lot of their followers to watch you too.

You will find that on Twitter, there are millions upon millions of people just posting up what they have to say, getting followed by friends, family and interested parties. There are far fewer but much more specialized Twitters that pin point what they are talking about to gain the interest of people that may buy from them.

To be successful at using Facebook or Twitter for Business growth, you have to set time aside to manage your ‘marketing’. Since that is exactly what it is, Marketing. Treat it like that by placing a cost and expense number to the time you spend in the Social Online Networking worlds so you know what it is actually ‘costing’ you. Do not think of it as FREE. It takes time from your day and time is money. You could be spending that time shaking hands and building Business relations or playing with your children – time is valuable – track it as such.

Hidden in the above is how you keep a happy family life to co-mingle with a happy Social Network life.
Know what you want out of your time online, manage your time online, keep it real, and know your limitations.
Finally – while I like to keep my family out of my Business Twitter account, we still have other accounts that we keep each other up on. Text Messaging via our phones is fine, but there are limits compared to what you can do online with many free Social Network services. If you want to keep it private, set up ‘invite only’ accounts so others outside of your family can’t see what is being posted. Doing this on Twitter means that everyone in the family has access to up-to-the-minute family happenings (with pictures, etc..) accessible via cell phones, desktops or any Internet connected device.