How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Social Media

Within the past year, my involvement with social media sites has grown exponentially. Carrying a smartphone has certainly helped feed these new habits, as have my duties on behalf of MADPASS, but what surprises me the most is how useful some of these sites have become in my life.

Before I natter on about how I’m using social media, please take My Very Short Social Media Survey. I need some data, and it’s just three easy questions. Think of it as helping a thirty-something geek with her homework,  with no calculus required.

Twitter

Back in 2011, I learned that the SQL Server community thrives on Twitter. When I first joined, I was an unfocused lurker – skimming the stream of tweets but not sure where to jump in. However, I soon learned about using hashtags like #ssrshelp to get the attention of experts that follow these topics and will respond astonishingly fast. I also gained a lot from following local MADPASS contacts. By watching what they tweeted and who they followed, I built my own list of SQL folks to follow. The blog posts and articles they regularly shared gave me a whole new fire hose of information to drink from – who knew professional development could come is such a small package? I put on my Twitter “training wheels” by first re-tweeting (or RT’ing if we’re using the lingo) the posts I found interesting, and +1’ing the posts I agreed with. I started posting questions and the occasional comments, and while I’m still not prolific, I’m getting better. Tweetcaster on Android and Tweetdeck on Chrome have made my Twitter experience infinitely better. The latest feature I’ve just started using is Twitter lists, which I intend to get sorted as soon as possible

The most rewarding aspect of Twitter is the kindness I’ve received from others in the SQL community. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly and funny people can be in 140 characters or less.

Yammer

Before 8/13/2012, I knew only one definition for “yammer”. I’d definitely been guilty of “yammering”, and I doubt it was ever useful. Nearly six months on, Yammer is now part of every weekday and some weekends, too. Some people sneer at Yammer as “Facebook for work”, and it did take me a few days to figure out how and why to use it. Didn’t we just have email and IM and phones to communicate with? Why would we need another channel? Here’s my version of a few reasons why (but you don’t have to take my word for it):

  • The team I work on has a number of members who work remotely. We can still discuss things in real time via Yammer threads, and solve a problem in a way that’s self-documenting.
  • All Yammer conversation threads get their own unique URL. This means I can reference it in documentation (“What did we decide again?”) and in support tickets (“Here’s how we fixed it.”).
  • Need to notify a bunch of people but can’t trust your memory or your limited corporate savvy to remember to choose all the right people? Post the update on Yammer, but double-check which group you’re posting in before you post.
  • Email admins loathe email chains with endless copies of the same attachment. A file shared on Yammer is shared once, yet still retains the context of what and why.
  • It’s often intimidating to ask questions when you’re new to a busy team. Instead of trying to pick who is the best/most available person to bug at any given moment, I can post questions to our team’s group and get help in a polite and introvert-friendly manner.
  • Search-ability and topic tagging on Yammer make it incredibly easy to find if something has been discussed before, or to find an old thread that needs to be revived with new information. Have we seen this error before? Why yes we have, and here was how it was fixed and who figured it out!

I now cannot imagine my workdays without Yammer, and am hoping to convince some other groups I’m working with on how much easier it can make collaboration.

Facebook

Facebook use is so personal for many of us – some even have strict rules about what life spheres they allow to intersect with their “Facebook selves”. I generally only “friend” people I’ve met in person and have semi-regular contact with. My post rate is higher now than it was a few years ago, but I won’t pretend that I strive for quality. Facebook should be fun. I do wish that Facebook’s interface was more like Yammer – more searchable, easier to reference, and less cluttered with ever-changing layouts and flows. Facebook would be lucky to be called “Yammer for home”.

I’d also like to see the day when Facebook is no longer “something my wife does”, but I digress…

LinkedIn, Google+, and All That Jazz

I’ve been MADPASS Director of Communications since this past fall, and as part of my duties I need to advertise our upcoming meetings to make sure we’re reaching both existing and potential new members. While I suspect we get the best ROI from our website and Twitter presence, I am pleased at the steady trickle of new member requests we see for our LinkedIn group, and we get the occasional buzz from Google+ as well. I confess that my LinkedIn profile doesn’t get the level of attention the email tips I get from that site suggest it should, but I do try to keep it current. I see the potential of Google+, but I am flat out of time to share my own life on yet another platform. I reserve the right to change my mind, though.

In The End…

Social media doesn’t replace personal and professional relationships for me, it enhances them. I can’t deny the efficiency of keeping friends up to date en masse on the latest silliness in my life via Facebook. I like the “first world problem” of realizing I remember someone’s clever Twitter handle better than I remember their given name. I feel more included in my team and in my company via Yammer, and get a little thrill every time I see we have a new member request to join MADPASS on LinkedIn. Even though it requires effort, it’s really been worth being more than a lurker on these many social media platforms.

One response to “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Social Media

  1. Gina, always enjoy your thoughtful commentary!

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