If it did not have such serious consequences, it would be almost funny to see how we--that is, human beings--make the same mistakes over and over again. We don't like change, and even as recent history proves how fatal avoidance can be, we still try to get away with holding on to obsolete habits and strategies.
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Lately, I have been observing general attitudes toward social networks. Numerous people in leadership positions around me have nothing but negative things to say about "those silly networks where young people share the most mundane information." I don't say that these naysayers are entirely wrong, but social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can also be used as powerful marketing tools. It is always up to you what you do with the tools you receive. I have met many great thinkers on these sites. They gracefully refrain from mundane chitchat while ensuring their human connection with others. And, at the same time, they promote their product, whether it's a service, a tangible object, or a thought.
Personally, I have discovered in the past months how valuable these social networks can be. My book, Joy at Work, Work at Joy: Living and Working Mindfully Every Day, was published in June, and I used the Internet to do intensive marketing for it. I used YouTube, my website, e-mail and virtual book communities, but also Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to tell the world about this new product. I was amazed at the results.
Benchmarking from the best practices of fellow authors, I targeted one particular day to create major hype about the product by asking all my contacts on these networks to purchase the book. I could not believe the effect! The book shot from rank 475,578 to 8,059 in the general category at Amazon.com, and even made number 50 on the 100 bestsellers in happiness books that day. Now, that's a record for a site where millions of titles are available. Ten years ago, this wouldn't have been possible without a penny of investment. But I have proof now, and I feel compelled to share it with other entrepreneurial thinkers.
You can find something good and something bad to say about almost anything in the world. But it's a gift to see and use the good, and leave the bad for what it is. Why remain skeptical about revolutionary trends and fall behind while others are making headway with relatively little effort?
These online sources can serve as great networks, which they were initially created for, but also as great sources of inspiration. Seeing what others are doing in your field opens your mind to new ideas and insights without the need for travel. Google, Atlassian and other wakeful corporations already understand that, but many employers still prohibit employees from visiting social networks at their work computers for fear they won't get their work done. In response, I cite McGregor's Theory X vs. Theory Y managers: If you expect your people to do the wrong thing, that's probably what they'll do. But if you let them feel that you believe in their intelligence and sense of responsibility, then that's what they will show you most of the time. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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So why fight the innate human need to connect? Today, you can be connected to the world even if you're an introvert (I include myself in that classification). Opposing social networks will not make them go away; too many people use them. And while many don't utilize these sources as stepping stones toward their final goals, plenty of people do. I see them every day when I check out my pages on these networks.
Fortunately, it seems that more people are starting to get the message. I receive new friend requests on a daily basis. That indicates to me that the movement is growing. And even when you're not thinking commercially, it's great to connect with other human beings from all over the world, isn't it? I have reunited with friends online whom I had not talked with in 30 or 40 years. I have found new friends, and I am not blind to the fact that, in today's hectic world of work and stress, social networks can be a blessing for lonely souls seeking companionship. If you read the notes on "Did You Know?" through YouTube, you can see how many marriages these days are the result of social networking sites.
So can we really afford to ignore or reject social networking sites? Who, ultimately, will be the loser?
Joan Marques, Ed.D., is the author of Joy at Work, Work at Joy: Living and Working Mindfully Every Day and co-editor of The Workplace and Spirituality: New Perspectives on Research and Practice. Marques is co-founder of the Business Renaissance Institute and the Academy of Spirituality and Professional Excellence. She is an awareness coach for business leaders and the author of more than 200 scholarly and popular articles.