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WTF is Social Networking? (Part 1)

August 24, 2010

Tin Cup Telephone

Social Networking = Communication

Humans Connecting With Humans:
Social Networking has become a bit of a buzz term, a job title and a ‘secret’ power that limited ‘special’ people are blessed with (and will share with you at a price, of course).
It’s actually exceedingly simple: human-beings connecting and engaging in authentic dialogue with like-minded people. It’s nothing new – you’ve been doing it since the day you were born.  It’s the art of communicating with other people.

The Digital Age:
We live in a digital age. Just about every element of our life has some sort of online component. We bank online, do our grocery shopping online, check medical test results, book vacations, meet potential life partners, search and then interview for jobs, and shop for just about anything imaginable from shoes to a private Island.

We are also spending a larger portion of our communication (or social networking) quota online.  Sending a fax or mailing a letter is to most of us as antiquated nowadays as a carrier pigeon. We use email, social networking sites, blogs and instant messengering systems for both business and personal interactions. Face to face conversations now often refers to a Skype (online video) call.

Talk the Talk:
This revolution has also spawned its own language.  You may have ‘Tweeted’ your choice of breakfast cereal this morning to your followers, or “Poked” someone on Facebook.  “Call me!” has become “Email me!” and bloggers and vloggers have become our trusted advisors.

“I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.”
(Drew Barrymore as Mary, He’s Just Not That Into You)

Take The Power Back:
None of this technological development should feel threatening or scary.  Sure there’s hundreds of buzz words, thousands of sites to belong to, and millions of people to ‘friend’, but this online revolution is very exciting, especially for artists. It enables a newfound level of freedom and control in managing your career. In fact, it should empower and motivate you; there may never have been better odds that you can achieve success in what you do than right now.

New Rules, Old Rules:
Communities have developed around common interests, just like the good ol’ days, except they ‘meet’ online, not at the community hall.  People are listening to word-of-mouth referrals, but they come via an email instead of during a chance meeting at the post office. As always anything but complete authenticity is rejected, but now the world (wide web) is much smaller and lies are much easier uncovered. We’re no longer ‘talked at’ by the ‘professionals’, but instead we talk to one another.

The Internet is an open stage for anyone who wishes to take the microphone.  Anyone, Harvard degree or not, can create, write and produce content and sell it online. Musicians can record in their bedrooms at home collaborating with band members from around the globe, and sell the results almost instantly worldwide. Actors can write, develop and produce films and online series to launch their careers as well as manage their own marketing and PR. Perhaps even more thrilling is that the dream-list of people you want to build professional relationships and ultimately work with is literally at your keyboard-crunching fingertips. Just think, Kevin Bacon is now only six pixels of separation away!

But How Does This Benefit Me?
Social Networking helps you to reach out to potential colleagues, peers and fans, listen and respond to your existing ones, add value to your online community, and to reinforce your brand and integrity. Engrave the following into your brain, write it on stick-notes and post them on your computer and bathroom mirror, chant it in your sleep.

Your primary social networking goal is to build authentic, valuable relationships, building networks of like-minded people who support and inspire each other.

As artists, your goals could be to share your creations, affect and engage people and to tell your story.  It can also be to earn an income from your craft. You may want to reach out to the world and extend your fan base, or collaborate with industry leaders.  Maybe you want to develop a resource pool of other talented performers, discover new work opportunities or nurture relationships with agents and casting directors.

The old adage rings truer than ever – it’s not only what you know, but also who(m) you know.  The good news is that finding the ‘who’ is now easier than ever!

In Part Two of this article we’ll look at what Social Networking isn’t, the do’s and don’ts and why ‘the C-Word’ is an essential part.

Until then, keep sharing!

“Whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof.”
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (Dutch Biologist, 1632-1723)

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