Remember that great episode of Seinfeld where Elaine was plagued by an annoying officemate who seemed to always appear at the right moment to mistakenly get credit for work he did not do, and was gone just as quickly and quietly when blame was to be handed out? It's one of those episodes that really stands out in my memory. (Elaine tried wearing wrestling shoes so that she could "sidle up" without being seen, but it didn't work as planned, and she eventually was able to attach a bell to her officemate and hilarity ensued, but I digress…)
There's an article in the February edition of Wired by Mary H.K. Choi in which she describes the new "art of sidling" in reference to those who use social networking tools to tap into the vast archives of online address books belonging to their network of friends and colleagues -- and to use those 2nd and 3rd tier connections to find freelance work, investigate new job opportunities, or to simply weave their way into new social circles.
There are laws in place to regulate how you can email people who attend your events, or who opt-in to your company newsletter. You are treated as a pariah if you use a mailing list from your church or local non-profit organization to promote yourself or your product/service/activity. But tap into the 2nd and 3rd tier connections identifiable through the visible social circles of your online connections?
That, my friends, is perfectly acceptable. As Choi puts it, "that behavior is the new normal."
Talk to someone in sales, and they'll tell you that its all fair game -- you need to use all of the tools available to you to find the right contact, the right customer lead. And while some may complain of infringement of rights and free use of their personal data, there's a big difference between a hacker breaking into credit card data (illegal), Google compiling volumes of data across every view, download and purchase to push specific ads in your face (uncomfortable), and someone looking trying to connect to you about a job at your company because you happened to go to elementary school with someone they met once at an Amway conference (annoying). My message to the whiners (which are the majority of voices out there on this topic, versus legitimate complaints of online data misuse) is to buck up -- and take the time to figure out the necessary steps to lock down your data to your liking. Whether it is Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever, you have the ability to go in and lock down your profile, maintaining some degree of control over how your data can be accessed and used.
For the rest of us (and, let's face it, most of the whiners, too) these new social tools are a boon to keeping connected, researching new ideas and people, and….in many cases….finding new ways to make ourselves unproductive. The trick is to find a way to integrate this new normal into your daily routine, and start benefitting from the size and depth of your social circles. I like to think of it as "scalability of the personal brand."
So stop whining about how others are able to use these new social tools to their advantage, strap on some wrestling shoes, and do some sidling yourself. #socialcomputing #buckleyplanet #socialnetworking #KevinBacon #networkingscience