How I use social media

I started this as a bit of an FAQ for strangers who try and get me to connect with them on Linkedin, or who want to post guest content on my blog, but I thought it was actually worth putting together something that articulates who I choose to follow and interact with on social media, and what criteria I use to make decisions around this sort of thing.

First things first, I have a number of communication channels that I use regularly. I have a public blog and Twitter account, locked Facebook and Google+ accounts, and two email accounts (one for work, one for everything else). I also have Linkedin profile that I largely use for tracking my professional network, and writing nice things about people I know who are engaged in job hunting, but that I don’t really use for communication as such.

I’ll start with my public social media. I’ve maintained a blog for the best part of 10 years, and anyone is welcome to read it, subscribe to email alerts, read it through an RSS reader, or consume it in any other way. What you won’t be able to do is leave comments (I turned those off years ago), or write content for my blog (because it’s mine and it’s part of my public internet presence so I want it to reflect me).

My Twitter account is also public, and I’m not choosy about who follows it, but I’ll generally only follow people back if I know them, I’m interested in the sort of content they post, or I’m interested in having actual conversations with them over social media (Twitter mentions and DMs are the only synchronous online conversations I regularly engage in). I will initiate connections, and often follow accounts that look unloved in the hope that I can help people I like see the wonders of Twitter (and thus talk to them more). I also cross-post to Twitter every time I write a blog post, and am happy to engage with people about the content of the blog post via Twitter. Twitter is also where to look for music recommendations, random snippets of life, occasional banter, and sporadic requests for social contact. It’s also the one place I’ll still post when I’m neglecting everything else (140 characters helps with this).

I suppose Linkedin classes as public social media too, although I use it in a very different way. I occasionally cross-post work-related content from Twitter, but I mainly maintain it to track my professional network, endorse and recommend people I know, and to do anything else I can think of to help other people with their job hunting and career progression. I’ll connect with anyone I’ve ever known professionally, anyone I know personally whose area of interest overlaps mine (so people who work in Universities, or are interested in psychology or personality, or work in IT, or are involved in any sort of people, project or service management), and anyone I don’t know who looks like they might be a useful addition to my professional network (although I never initiate these connections). I’m a lot pickier about people in recruitment and sales, especially if I don’t know them. I also tend not to initiate connections with people who are direct reports or where I am perceived to be more powerful than them in an organisation (although I’ll happily reciprocate invitations if they come in). That’s not a hard and fast rule though – it very much depends what sort of personal connection I’ve already got with the person. I’m also quite sporadic with using Linkedin, and have not done any endorsements for about 3 months (I need to fix that soon).

I use Google+ to communicate with a specific (fairly large) group of people I’ve known for ages. Most of the friendships predate G+, and have followed me through the IRC, Livejournal, Facebook, and Buzz days, and I suspect anyone else would regard my account as being unused, as all my content is locked. I initiate G+ connections a lot, and check the site several times a day (although I have email notifications turned off globally), and while I’ll accept requests from anyone I know, I don’t promise to post anything too interesting.

I’ve used Facebook for a long time, but these days I only really cross-post from Twitter, comment on what other people post, or use it to organise my social life with groups of people who don’t use G+ or Twitter. My friends list is a weird mix of family, friends, colleagues, and people I’ve not seen for years. I’ll generally accept requests from anyone I know (including people I know through work), although I’m fairly bad at initiating requests unless I’ve identified someone who I want to connect with and it looks like Facebook is the only option. I also have notifications turned off, and rarely use the IM function, so it’s not the best method if you need a quick response (weirdly, that’s probably still email).

I like email a lot (if you really don’t have my address then it’s somewhere on this site I’m sure). I try and maintain inbox zero, although I am quite discerning about what I’ll reply to (I get a lot of email), and a lot of what I get actually gets converted to a Trello card if it requires me to do something that takes longer than about five minutes. Before there was social media I used email a lot for socialising – now I find that doesn’t happen unless I know the person really well or the topic of conversation is confidential, but I’m not against using email for social contact if that’s what someone is most comfortable with.

One day I’ll sit down and consolidate my social networks so that they represent everyone I know (for someone with such a clear preference for introversion I know a lot of people), but that day is not today, and I suspect that it’s a job I’ll not get round to for a long time. In the meantime I hope this blog post gives people an idea of what they can expect if they choose to engage with me on social media.