Social Networks as Venues

I’ve been on a quest to integrate social media into my (real) life, rather than trying to design my life around the reality that has become social media.

One of the things that has been frustrating is the fact that my social media presence has felt like the equivalent of one of those blinding bright LED billboards on the highway — broadcasting information to anyone and everyone who drives by whether they are interested or not.

Like most people, I have many nuanced facets to my life and my social life. These facets tend to congeal into groups. In one group I have my elderly parents and their very traditionally-minded friends, mostly from church and the local VFW. In another group have my artist friends, a very diverse group of creatives. One group centers around my hobby of trading collectibles and a couple of others mostly consist of people I’ve gone to school with during different time periods. I’ve freelanced in a few different industries, and I have a circle of associates around those ventures. These groups of friends seldom overlap unless they happen to have mutual interests.

My mother’s friends don’t necessarily want to read three or four Facebook updates a day about SEO. They don’t even care what SEO is. Most of my artist friends don’t really want to see my Etsy ads for whatever collectible I’m currently selling, or read articles I find interesting about copywriting.

Maintaining several different online profiles for these different social groups has become exhausting, and I just really don’t want to do that anymore, so I’m looking for better alternatives.

I’ve been experimenting, and while I haven’t discovered a perfect solution yet, I have discovered that using different social networking sites to communicate on different topics has helped me engage and interact with people in a wide variety of circles without “spamming” anyone with information they really don’t want or need.

Here are some examples of what I’ve found is working for me.

Google Plus has been a great way to interact with people who are into visual arts. It’s fantastic for sharing links to online portfolios and for storing and posting images in a way that somewhat protects the original author’s (or at least the poster’s) ownership of the image.

Reddit has been a great place to discuss current events and the culture of the day. For example, I’m a huge fan of the popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory,” and although there are several “TBBT” fan clubs on nearly every social network out there, most of them are more about posting .gif files or screen shots from the show with captions. On Reddit, there are more in-depth discussions about things like character development, details of the plot and content of the shows, which jokes were the funniest and why, and speculation about what’s going to happen in upcoming episodes.

Facebook groups are now my favorite place to really interact with people about more personal issues. For example, on the Meyers-Briggs scale, I’m an “INFJ.” (That’s a personality type.) On Facebook, I’ve been able to find and interact with LOTS of people about what this means, how to deal with it, how to capitalize on it, and the best ways to handle social interactions with other people. Very informative. I’ve also found the Facebook groups are a great place to discuss buying, selling, and trading.

LinkedIN, now that I’m taking a fresh look at it this week, is proving to be the best place to network with other folks in my copywriting niche. This is a place for business — not personal stuff.

I’m still trying to find my place on a few of the other networks, and also to find out where they are going to fit into my new and improved (real) life. These include Twitter (and Medium), Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Meanwhile, I’m learning what types of updates and posts work on each of my four major sites (Google+, Facebook, Reddit and LinkedIN). It is not practical to just blast every social network with every post I find interesting. I don’t really have an audience on Google Plus for the fact that I’m ready to sell my Russian decanters. That information is better suited for one or two select Facebook groups. Nobody on Reddit cares about my current freelance work. That’s better suited for LInkedIN. LinkedIN, however, is not a good place to post my digital artwork, nor is it a good place to pose a question about what’s up with Penny and Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory.” Even if they do care, that’s not what the majority of people are on LinkedIN to do. They’re wanting to network professionally.

It has helped me to start thinking of each social networking site as a real-life venue. For example, there are topics I would bring up in my church that I would not necessarily bring up in my office at work. There are discussions I might have with my family around the dinner table that I would not have at my collector’s club meeting. I would not bring something I want to sell to church, and I would not ask my Dad’s VFW buddies for decorating advice (my artistic friends might be more interested in that discussion).

Essentially, it’s all about knowing who you’re talking to. In some ways this is a bit harder online, because we can’t always SEE who we’re talking to. In other ways, it’s a bit easier because we have the advantage of static profiles and written records of past discussions to clue us in. We hear a lot these days about “emotional intelligence.” I’m learning that exercising a little of this can go a long way toward understanding what to share, and where.

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