Mobile Social Networking Comes of Age

Article

Like it or not, social networking is here to stay.

Do you use social networking tools at the office, in your practice, or at home? If you do, there are more tools to take advantage of all that social networking has to offer directly from your mobile phone.

Like it or not, social networking is here to stay. You may think re-connecting with your old high school and college pals should be reserved for your personal life, but more and more, colleagues, acquaintances, and business partners are reaching out to one another through social networking tools. Don't be too surprised if the people you met on your most recent business trip attempt to "friend" you on Facebook, or start following your Twitter stream.

The two biggest social networking sites at the moment are MySpace and Facebook. Not far behind are Friend Feed, Twitter, and Linked In. Each serves its own purpose, and sees a typical set of users.

Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter are being used by businesses and companies to maintain relationships. Personally, about 50% of my friends on Facebook are people I've met over the years as a journalist. For me, it is imperative to maintain many of those relationships, as I often need to reach out to them for assistance. Because people change jobs often enough, their contact information changes as well. Tools like Linked In and Facebook always reflect the most recent information, which makes them valuable for everyone. You'll always have access to the right information.

While social networking through PCs has its place, the ability to do so through mobile phones has vastly improved over the last 12 months.

Consider Facebook. Today, Facebook has created customized versions of itself for the iPhone, Nokia phones, Windows Mobile phones and even BlackBerries. Many of you probably carry one types of these phones. Using the mobile clients, you can update your status, respond to e-mails, post comments on your friends' walls, and search through your friend list for information—all without sitting down at a desk.

Quite often, I find my business contacts reaching out to me through Facebook rather than regular e-mail. You may find yourself in a similar situation when on the road. Having the ability to reach those people from your phone can be powerful.

Twitter is another service that has really exploded in the last 6 months. Twitter is sort of like a chat room, but it is entirely public. If you like what a person has to say, you "follow" them, and their stream becomes merged with your own. Because Twitter limits messages to 140 characters, it forces people to get to the point. It is accessible from the Web and most mobile phones. It allows people to share their experiences with subsets of friends and acquaintances immediately. For example, when the US Airways Flight 1549 crashed in the Hudson River last month, millions of people shared the news via Twitter rather than phone calls, e-mails or text messages.

These tools aren't for everyone, especially those who prefer to keep their private lives, well, private. But they are having an impact on businesses more and more. Can you put them to work for yours?

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