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Have you ever gotten into a discussion with someone about personal vs. professional accounts on social networks?

Some people believe it’s impossible to separate the two. Others create two different profiles on their favorite social networks and drive themselves crazy trying to manage it all.

There are people who freak out each time they get an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn. (That’s my old boss, I don’t know…” or “I never really liked her, do I have to say yes?”) I know people who refuse to look at their friend requests on Facebook because they don’t want to have to make a decision on whether or not they should let a person in.  In many cases they keep these people in what I call “Facebook purgatory” so they don’t hurt their feelings.

This is a real struggle for many, but it doesn’t have to be. Quite honestly, I think it’s madness and if you’re one of these types, it’s time to take back your power.

If friend requests, invitations to connect and potential Twitter stalkers are keeping you up at night, that needs to stop. Today. All you have to do is develop your own personal social media policy. Determine your own rules of engagement and apply them. And don’t be scared to let people know how they can connect with you.

If you don’t want to chat it up with your co-workers on Facebook, don’t. And even if you are connected already and don’t want to be, adjust your privacy settings. Create lists within your friends lists and limit what they can see.

I have no problem telling people how I connect. I had a friend request from a former co-worker on Facebook just today and declined it. I told her that I would prefer to connect with her on LinkedIn instead. I hope she doesn’t take it personally but I have a certain way I choose to connect that works for me.

I liked her when we worked together, but our relationship doesn’t fit with the way I communicate on Facebook. She doesn’t need to see the pictures of my children I post from time-to-time or read my fun rants with my cousins. Because our work relationship never reached actual friendship, (like many do) she doesn’t belong there.

My policy works something like this:

Twitter: Anyone except the porn people and hard core affiliate marketing types. I’m pretty much professional on twitter. I have a niche there and try to stick to it. If you don’t like live tweets, journalism, or social media, you won’t enjoy following me at all.

  • Direct messages: If you send me a DM, I will respond.
  • @Mentions: If you mention me in a reply, I will respond accordingly. It may not be immediately but you will be acknowledged when warranted. I don’t typically thank people for retweets. I figure it was of value to them so they shared it. I will follow them so I can return the favor some day.

LinkedIn: Any business connection I’ve made. This includes people I meet at conferences, former co-workers and anyone I know professionally. I haven’t met all of these people, but I know of them in some significant way.

Blog: If you post a comment on my blog, I will try my best to respond, especially if you’ve never posted before. Again, it may not be immediate but it will happen. Sometimes  I reach out via email instead. I will never have a heated argument online and do not engage with trolls or disrespect other bloggers.

Facebook: Family and friends. Co-workers or former co-workers who have transcended co-worker and moved into “friend” territory. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you are likely someone I would invite to my house.

This may be a bit formal for you so consider it food for thought. It took me a while to figure out what works best. So don’t be offended if you reach out to me on Facebook and we don’t connect.

It’s not you at all. It’s me, and that’s how I manage it all.

I’d love to hear about your personal policies and boundaries in the comments.

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Have you ever wondered how some members of your online community (or any community for that matter) can get so overwhelmingly caught up in online drama with people they hardly know?  I know I have. Well, there could be a real, clinical reason behind it, according to a new study, that goes beyond them needing to “get a life.”

Psychologists from Leeds University say they’ve found “striking” evidence that some avid internet users develop compulsive  habits in which they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.

The lead author of the study wrote in the the journal of Psychopathology that the study “reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction.”

WOW, THAT EXPLAINS A LOT.

What the study didn’t glean is which comes first: excessive internet use or depression. In other words… are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?”

Here is one more interesting quote I just have to share:

“While many of us use the internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities.”

This is a really interesting study. Read more about it here in Science Daily, and come back and tell me what you think.Oh, you can also read the complete abstract with methodology and other pertinent information at Psychopathology.

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Here’s something you can do to jump start your year, clear out your inbox and make better use of your time in the social space next year.

Start opting-out.

Take a few minutes to assess every piece of email you receive that comes from someone who promised to teach you how to become an internet marketing genius, double your number of Facebook fans, guarantee that you’ll get 15 retweets per day by following 8 simple rules or any other claim that simply did not deliver.

You’ve waited and waited for that one email that would give you the idea of a lifetime but it didn’t come. It probably isn’t coming. Perhaps you’ve received one valuable e-mail blast and the other 11 were crap. Why continue to reward this person with a personal invitation into your world? They wanted your email address for their own gain, not yours.  You gave them a chance and they didn’t meet your needs, so let them go. This is YOUR time we’re talking about here.

After my book was published earlier this year, I opted in to all kinds of emails from experts who knew how to get me super publicity. I dialed in to a few teleseminars and even participated in a webinar or two. It was all junk. Regurgitated junk and empty promises, week after week.  There was one gem though. A woman who offers great practical advice on book marketing. I was so impressed with her that I paid for one of her information products on how to get your book in libraries.  It cost $19 and I am happy to say that after following her advice to the letter, I did get my book in a few libraries and learned how to navigate the bureaucracy. That was worth it,

But back to the topic at hand….

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I love Chinese Food. I particularly enjoy reading the messages found inside the fortune cookies received at the end of each meal. Well, today I had an epiphany. As I sat there reflecting on the two short sentences I’d just read, I realized that it wasn’t enough.

I needed more. More detail, a greater explanation. I needed a LINK!

I wanted my fortune cookie to operate like Twitter. After all, the message was my fortune. My future was at stake. A quick blurb is nice, but where can I get additional details? Where the heck is the link? Are there any blogs out there about this topic? Do you not understand the concept of social media, Mr. Cookie? GIVE ME SOMETHING MORE! Be social.

I wonder if I should have tried to convert him. Maybe I should have tried typing this under-140-character blurb into my BlackBerry right there at the restaurant:” @Fortunecookie Tell me more about that second sentence. Is there a link?” An exercise in futility of course, but you see where I’m going with this.

Jacob Morgan wrote about this very thing in a guest post on Chris Brogan’s blog today. His message was about making sure your conversations don’t turn into broadcasts. A broadcast would be a one-way message. Did you read it @FortuneCookie? Maybe you should. I will gladly provide the link, which is more than I can say for you, buddy!

Social media makes all of us expect more. With so much instant information at our fingertips and a vast network of providers across numerous social media platforms, we don’t want for much in that department and it is clearly affecting my life.

I learned an interesting lesson about myself today: I can no longer read a simple text message on a fortune cookie without getting myself all riled up.

Thanks, Twitter. That’s just what I needed.

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As the Managing Editor of GOLO, I come in contact with a lot of users both in public and in private. Many members communicate with me openly on my profile page and others e-mail me behind the scenes. I encourage both methods and respond to all inquiries. I want the members to feel comfortable and if they prefer private communication I most certainly oblige.

As we head into our eleventh month, I am simply amazed at how much I know about the community. I don’t mean as a whole, but on individual levels.

From reading blogs, viewing image galleries and paying close attention to the way members interact, I have somehow learned a little about a whole lot of people. I can name the professions of at least 20 members, personal hobbies of others and even first and last names of a select few. I know that we have members with children in Iraq, members who have lost a child, members who are recently divorced, recovering alcoholics, and fighting eating disorders.
I know that one member is a chef, another owns a landscaping business, another is obsessed with “The Rock,” and another has the most disgusting feet you ever want to see.

This is a new level of sharing and highly valuable information. It is also why I think there is a lot to be said about smaller online communities that provide a different experience than the majors. Sure they have millions of members, but does anyone “really” know anyone else?

If you’re a community manager or hope to become one, please understand that you will deal with disgruntled members. Depending on your level of involvement in the community, you could potentially be looked upon as a referee.

That happens to me and I am working hard to figure out the best way to deal with it. After all, I don’t want to lose members due to a few troublemakers or users intent on hiding behind the mask of anonymity to wreak havoc on upstanding members who contribute often and are seemingly invested in the site.

One thing that I’m noticing is that just like the real world, people tend to cool off, and emotions that run high one day are often a bit calmer the next.
It’s a delicate balancing act and the skill set needed to manage an online community that is truly a community, in my opinion is still TBD.

If there is a list of five pertinent skills, I believe I at least have 3.5 to 4, as my community is growing and members are engaging more than ever before. Am I hands on? Yes. Do I provide individual attention and answer feedback? Yes. And the community appreciates it a great deal.

But I don’t take anything for granted and just as I had to “plan” and strategize in traditional media, I am doing the same thing here in social media because after all, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

The topic was: Managing Online Communities: Getting YOUR Message to the Masses.  The audience consisted of furniture retailers, independent owners and other industry professionals and all were quite interested in online communities once I began to share the value of participation.

I could tell by the questions after the seminar that business owners are interested in blogging and reaching people online in this capacity and that with the right direction and input, many of them will likely engage.

It’s a smart move.  I shared three examples. Two of which seem to have established themselves within the GOLO community , and another that probably came on a bit too strong for the community and was immediately classified as spam. Well, when you upload 357 images of your product as soon as you join the community  and never bother to introduce yourself to the community or establish your area of expertise, this is bound to happen.

I’m happy to report that the audience seemed to “get it” and I think many will seek out online communities as a way to reach a new audience.  I think that’s a good thing.

If you’re interested in my oresentation, i will gladly share. Just send me an e-mail or leave a message in the comment area below.

I’m conducting a seminar at the National Home Furnishing Association’s Conference in High Point, NC in two days and I’ve been gathering my thoughts for the past three. The working title is “Managing Online Communities: Getting YOUR Message to the Masses.”

Since launching WRAL.com’s online community GOLO last summer, I’ve seen the phenomenon of social networking unfold before my very eyes. It was quite intriguing, and it’s still amazing to watch as we continue to grow. We are now well beyond 6,000 members and I must say that a real community has formed. As the Managing Editor, it is my job to provide vision, determine strategy and engage the community. It is more than a full-time job.

My goal through this seminar is to offer ideas on how businesses can successfully interact within communities like GOLO and get their message across without being shunned, ignored or worse…labeled as spam or marked as abuse.

It’s a delicate balance, but it can be done. It takes time and commitment and I’m sure my message won’t be accepted by all in attendance. I do plan to provoke thought and introduce new ideas that will hopefully infuse new life into an industry that’s seeking new information and ideas.

The powerpoint I’m preparing has promise. I just gave it another once-over and it’s quite convincing. I just hope that I can open their minds and encourage a new way of thinking.

I believe in the power of online communities and I know what they want. It is now up to those who want or even need to reach them, to do it on the community’s terms.

My name is Angela Connor. I live and breathe online communities. I am currently nurturing the online community, GOLO which I have managed since it’s launch on July 2, 2007. I am a journalist and I am intrigued by the changes that my industry is undergoing. It has been evolving since I entered it, and that’s what makes it fun.  Join me as I chronicle this journey and do my best to help others along the way. There is nothing traditional about traditional media.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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