When I first started using social media tools, I saw lots of complaints and news stories written about the level of personal information being shared. From what folks were eating for lunch to their relationship status, the strictly professional users felt these personal communications were diluting the ultimate value of these emerging platforms. While, there are some who can be described as oversharers; I actually think there is value in sharing personal information. Each one of us have many different elements that make up the totality of our personality. From our families to our careers to our extracurricular activities and everything in between, each of these areas uniquely define our identity. With social media being one part of our communication toolbox, there are a few reasons why it makes sense to share both personal and professional information.
Cart Before The Horse
When was the last time you met someone at a networking event that only wanted to talk about business…boring. Typically, this person introduces himself/herself, dives into their elevator pitch, jams their business card into your hand, and before you know what hit you has moved on to the next connection (victim). Some of the best relationships that I’ve built started with a simple conversation that I had with someone at an event. Once there is basic rapport established, then we can see if there is an opportunity to further develop a business relationship. If not, there is still no harm as you were able to have a great conversation.
Depending on the quality of one’s social media presence, it is pretty easy to get a pedestrian understanding of basic profile information. From where you work, to where you live, to what types of music you like; these data points are captured pretty well on social media sites. However, these profile elements only suggest mutual interest. For instance, just because I like sports doesn’t mean I like all sports. However, if I tweet about wanting Lebron James to join the Chicago Bulls; you might logically conclude that I’m both a Lebron James fan and Chicago Bulls fan and I feel this would be a match made in heaven (all true BTW). Even if you are a Knicks, Cavaliers or Mavericks fan, as long as your position about where Lebron should go is well-reasoned; we’ll likely have a great conversation about the summer of Lebron. However, this type of additional insight is impossible if we are restricted to only communicating “business relevant” information when using social media.
Each of us normally have a handful of things that we are super passionate about. These are things that we can’t help thinking about, talking about or working on. Our passions may or may not be directly connected to the work we do everyday. If we only pretend that we are interested in business related topics, we miss the opportunity to really get to know others in our network. If we only view social networks as tools to individually benefit ourselves, then we may not be interested in learning about the true passions of others. But, guess what? Sometimes it feels good to lend an ear to someone else just because. If an additional benefit comes back to you at a later time, great. If not you have already received your reward.
For those in my network, I invite you to keep the personal communications coming. I love learning about your love for BBQ, how much you hate BP, and your loss of sleep because of your newborn child. I won’t unfollow you or de-friend you because you got personal. In fact, it will probably draw me closer to you and to me that’s one of the major benefits of social; the human element.
–Omowale Casselle (@mysensay)
About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community focused on connecting talented college students with amazing entry-level employment opportunities.