So I spent all last week getting myself up to date on Facebook (here) and LinkedIn (here) and Twitter (here). It’s a time suck, as one good friend on Facebook warned me…. I’m exhausted. And I ain’t done yet.
But here’s my impression thus far…
- BEST USE: is indeed best reserved for real professional connections — people you have worked with before and know reasonably well. It’s a great way to grow your professional network, and the cross-referencing database (it knows where you’ve worked and during what years, and recommends connections who also worked there during that period based on that info) is proving to be pretty successful so far. Plus the ability to connect with people “once removed” — people connected to people you know — makes it a great “warm lead” tool for professional networking.
- BEST FEATURE: Be sure to leverage the “recommendations” feature… and start by writing recommendations for folks you’ve worked with (and would actually recommend). Do unto others… then if they don’t respond in kind in 30-60 days, leverage the “request a recommendation” feature (assuming you’re confident the recommendation will be forthcoming and positive). Once your profile and initial network is established, it (hopefully) won’t be too much of a time suck. Check it regularly, keep it updated, and nurture your circle.
- DOWNSIDE: This downside is pretty specific to freelance filmmaking, but I’d guess it’s troublesome for plenty of other freelancers too. LinkedIn has two places for work experience – a big text field to input your Resume (called “Summary” – which I guess you could use for something else) and a series of individual forms to input your job history (called “Experience”). The Experience fields lets you create a searchable database entry for each job, with fields for “Company Name”, “Title”, “Start Date”, “End Date”, and “Description”. These standardized fields make it easier for the system to find people with whom you may have worked (rather than the system trying to scrape and decipher relevant info from your long text resume). The problem for those of us in the filmmaking industry is that we may work on films for a few days, weeks or months. And if we want the system to link us to others who worked on that production, we want to reference the job just as they did, so the system can recognize our affiliation. So what do I put in the “Company Name” field? Do I put in “Fat Rose and Squeaky” (the name of the film), “Fat Rose LLC” (the entity created to manage the production) or “Etc… Group Entertainment” (the parent prodco who spearheaded the production)? What’s the DP, or director, or actor on that shoot likely to use? Right now, what many seem to be doing is “slashing” the “Company” field, putting “Fat Rose and Squeaky / ETC. Group Entertainment” – trying to cover both bases in the hopes of finding others from the shoot. But will the system understand? And will everyone on the Fat Rose shoot do this? It would help to have a field for “Project”, a field for “Company” and a field for “Title” — so my entry would be “Fat Rose and Squeaky” for “ETC Group Entertainment” as “Art Director”. This goes further to standardize the data per the fields, increasing the likelihood of finding potential colleagues. And, I imagine, would help consultants of all kinds.
- CAVEATS: I’d stay away from being too “social”… maintain a workplace demeanor. Because apparently everyone sees Twitter as a threat, LinkedIn does have a “Twitter-like” feature – a small field called “What Are You Working On Now” where you input your most recent status (though updating it overwrites the previous, it doesn’t create a historical thread). Don’t use this like Twitter (“I just worked on an amazing ham and cheese sandwich”) but use it to highlight projects and jobs (“Just started a new user interface for Yahoo!”) that will reflect your professional value.
Note: Being brand new to Facebook, I joined just after the famed “redesign” which apparently radically changed the look and feel, and usability, of the site. Old timers are complaining long and loud about the new look. I’d be curious to see the old one to compare, but I’m not hating on the site quite like they are. Maybe I just don’t know any better. But my comments are all based on the new site, and without any “comparative data” vis-a-vis its previous incarnation.
- BEST USE: Its core function is much like LinkedIn; it cross-references work and school histories with other users to recommend “friends”, as well as “friends of friends”. Is that its best use? I don’t know… but it’s the most fundamental feature of the site’s architecture. Oh, and like LinkedIn, it’s got a “What Are You Working On Now” type field you can update from time to time, which appears just below your picture on your profile. It’s a good place to manage work and personal relationships… a combination of MySpace and LinkedIn.
- BEST FEATURE: Well, maybe not a best feature, but a differentiating feature… In an effort to keep up with the Twitters, LinkedIn also just added a “Twitter-esque” feature of their own, a small text field that asks you “What’s on your mind?” (as opposed to Twitter’s “What are you doing?”). These entries are piped onto your homepage for your friends to see, along with every “What’s on your mind” post from every friend you’ve got… and along with every “comment back” on those entries that every friend you’ve got might add. This makes Facebook a more social version of LinkedIn — a kind of Myspace for grownups. And that might be its WORST FEATURE as well.
- DOWNSIDE: The user-flow of the Twitter-clone is clunky and confusing… on your “home page” (which is your view) you’ll see all your updates, all your friends comments on your updates, all your friends updates (whether directly to you or just to the world), and all of their friends comments on those updates, ad nauseum. The view of you that your friends see is your “profile page” where they can see your “wall” (which is all your updates, and any updates your friends have made directly to you, and any comments your friends have made about your updates – but not your friends general updates to the world), or they can see your “wall-to-wall” which is just comments back and forth directly between the two of you. Confused yet?
- CAVEATS: Can quickly become a time suck, if you allow yourself to get wrapped up in the “moment to moment” updates of all your friends and their friends. Lots of Twitter-esque “I just ate pudding” updates — honest to God I don’t care. And I don’t see the need to see the personal exchanges between suzy and bob about the dinner they had together last night. None of my business, I don’t give a crap.
- BEST USE: I’ve seen a few Tweeters who use the system prudently… they offer relevant personal or industry updates on actual events of mutual interest, and the ocassional “Bob Smith Co. needs an intern – apply at insertsitehere.com” that’s a real benefit. There’s also a well-known script consultant who’s trying to create a “group script writing” thread called tweetamovie. I think that’s a cool idea, but it doesn’t seem to be taking off, and part of the reason might be that it’s not simple to send her a direct message that she can “filter” and choose to post. You can only send direct messages to people who are “following” you, so that’s out… you have to email her your submission, and if she uses it she’ll post it… and then you’ve circumvented Twitter altogether. What’s the point of that?
- BEST FEATURE: Simple design? I’m stretching here…
- DOWNSIDE: I don’t care what your bowel movement looked like this morning. Twitter has no analog for real-world relationships. While it could be compared to High School note-passing, at least then you knew the person you were passing the note to. Twitter is more analogous to spewing random thoughts without the filter of purpose or relevence, to anyone who is within earshot. It’s closest real-world analog is the crazy homeless loon who wanders downtown yelling “My feet hurt! Chester’s dog is a CIA informant! Why are birds so loud in the morning? I think I’ll get some coffee now. Ack! Ack!” I don’t get the allure, purpose or value of Twitter (and nope, they’re not profitable yet, as there is no business model – it feels very 1999).
- MORE DOWNSIDES: My experience on Twitter has been that the site’s excruciatingly slow to load most of the time, it often “crashes” (giving me a message that the server’s overloaded with “too many tweets”) and often when it does load, it’s not got its style sheet (meaning all the “design” is gone, and you’re seeing raw text poorly formatted on the screen). Twitter definitely feels like an unfinished interesting idea that’s not ready for primetime.
- CAVEATS: I would be very careful choosing people to “follow”, and find some that are going to bring some kind of real value (I’ve seen people who are “following” over 1,000 Tweeters. Seriously? Are you really keeping up with all that? And is it worth it?). And conversely, I’d be prudent about my updates. Sure enough, once I’m famous, somebody will find that old “tweet” of mine – “Killed a drifter today. Then ate at Applebee’s.”