Social Media as Personal Power

powerquote Enterprise software isn’t very sexy. I agree with Robert Scoble’s perspective on this. And though others are disagreeing with this, people like Nick Carr are seeing Scoble’s point. The conversation around the argument is that enterprise applications aren’t meant to be sexy; they’re meant to work flawlessly for the organization. Well here’s where it’s interesting to me.

saisons poulsbo isn’t exactly a friendly place.

Social Media Works for You

EVERY tool that social media counts in its arsenal: blogging, podcasting, videoblogging, microblogging (Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Tumblr), and all the rest — every one of them is a tool equipped to offer you personal power. How do I mean this?

  • Social media gives you a voice. Though some organizations have strict policies against blogging about that organization, it’d be hard for them to stop you from blogging about other areas of interest, your passions, and things that don’t relate to your day job.
  • Social media gives you an audience. Instead of waiting for mainstream media to determine if your thoughts are worthy of a larger audience, you have the CHANCE to build an audience from day one. (And believe me, there’s someone for everyone out there).
  • Social media gives you flexibility. Are you better in pictures? Use Flickr. Not very tech savvy? Use Utterz. A budding Kubrick? Make a videoblog. Hemingway? Write a blog.
  • Social media gives you a world audience. Okay, what happens inside the firewall is one thing, but what happens out on the Internet goes pretty much everywhere. (Which is also a caution, as well as a benefit).

Ways to Enhance Social Media Power

Should you wish to use your media for something beyond expressing yourself, there are many ways available to you for developing a following and tapping this audience for the better good. Consider some of the following:

  • Find like-minded media makers. If you’re blogging about developing nations or non-profits, find great people like Beth Kanter. If you’re writing about presentations, get connected to Pistachio and Heidi Miller and Presentation Zen. There’s strength in numbers.
  • Use Twitter to develop relationships by COMMUNICATING with people, and finding folks who are interested in the things that you find interesting.
  • Contribute to others’ projects, and be useful. Think of way upon way upon way to be useful.
  • And help people connect. This is a gesture that people seldom forget. Those who continue to give of themselves find themselves with great friends and an active, engaged community.

The core of this idea is that there’s strength in numbers. One voice is but a raindrop. Many voices is a flood. (This is an echo of an audio ad Christopher S. Penn made for the first ever PodCamp, and it has forever stayed with me).

Use Your Power for Good

Social media can help you do many things, from simple things like finding a job (lots of us use our blogs as a sort of living resume (see Bryan Person’s post on this here). It can help you find great social causes. Of all the benefits building a community of active voices has, it’s that you can use this ability to help others.

Different Than An Enterprise Application

Social media tools are built to connect individual voices to a community. The basic unit of all (most?) social media applications is the individual. We can join groups in Facebook, but we start at the individual profile. We can follow people we like in Twitter, and add friends in Seesmic, but we are first and foremost a production company of one.

Further, social media tools do a great job of capturing unstructured information, as Rachel Happe from IDC pointed out in her speech on social networks in the enterprise. Use this difference for the power it’s worth. Use things like blogs and Utterz and wikis to gather and annotate and stretch and link and meta-organize information that doesn’t have a home in more formal settings.

And, as an added bonus, social media tools can act perfectly as a crossover tool. For instance, you can use Twitter with colleagues and with friends from other organizations (depending on corporate policies, of course). You can blog for ideas, inspiration, and collaboration, and use what you learn to develop your professional projects. These tools are perfect for the occasional task of shoring up your flagging interest in your day job, by showing you that engaged minds are out there doing amazing things.

Where’s Your Cape?

We kicked off the first PodCamp by saying that everyone in the audience was a superhero. They had their day jobs, their Clark Kent lives, but then they had these tools and this community that extended far beyond the firewall. People inside a PodCamp relate to each other in ways that don’t mirror 1:1 the typical corporate hierarchy.

At PodCamp Europe, we had people from Nokia and Ericsson in the audience, listening and responding to the sessions without competition. We frequently have Apple and Microsoft employees in the audience. It’s easy to forget about the competitive, dog-eat-dog world when you’re at a PodCamp because people there are more interested with learning the tools, developing community, and building a stronger relationship with communities of interest.

I grew up in Maine. I love it there, but there were plenty of times when I felt out of step with the folks living in my proximity. As the Internet developed, so did my opportunities to reach out and communicate with like-minded people. And now, with all these tools, I have the power to communicate and hold conversations in many ways with exceptionally diverse groups.

That’s the power of all this. It’s not Google juice. It’s not a new way to market to people. It’s sure as hell not about recreating media on the Net. Connections. Pure, quality connections. You need only read these two recent posts by Shel Israel to see the power YOU wield.

Now, how will you use it? How ARE you using it? What do you think about this talk of empowerment and ability?

The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.

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Photo credit esparta

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