Monday, November 2, 2009

The Social Networking Express

When was the last time you typed a letter to express a business need or to tell a friend about your vacation? If you’re like me, it’s probably been a while. I now rely on a blend of e-mails, wall postings and tweets to communicate with colleagues, family and friends.

To say the least, the ways in which we communicate have changed how we do business, how we stay in touch and, in some ways, how we live. What’s driving this communication revolution? Social networking (or social media). Social networking has grabbed attention and imagination worldwide. The popularity of platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter has exploded:
•Facebook reports 300 million active users. Fifty percent of those users log on to the site each day, and more than 40 million users update their status at least once per day.
•MySpace boasts 125 million members, LinkedIn counts more than 47 million members and Twitter has more than 27 million members.
•According to Pew Internet, the share of adult U.S. Internet users who have a profile on a social networking site has more than quadrupled in the past 4 years, leaping from 8% to 35%.

These numbers continue to grow at astounding rates. Social media is now a leading reason people use the Internet. In fact, the Nielsen Co. recently reported that time spent on social network and blogging sites accounted for 17% of all time spent on the Internet in August 2009, nearly triple the percentage of time spent on those sites just a year ago. And social networking is not just for kids. Facebook says it has more users in the 45 to 65 year old range than in the 13 to 17 year old range. Forty-five percent of users are age 26 and older.

So what does this mean to you, and why am I talking about it in Professional Safety? For you and for ASSE, social media presents tremendous opportunities for networking, collaborating, sharing best practices, communicating and connecting to a nearly unlimited pool of people with similar needs and wants, as well as to information that may benefit you. The world truly is getting smaller. Instead of reaching out to single contacts, you can now create networks of hundreds or thousands of people located around the globe—and you can do so almost instantaneously.

ASSE’s use of technology continues to evolve as well, as we seek new ways to communicate with and engage our diverse membership. Our virtual symposia are a great example of these efforts. These virtual events go far beyond a traditional webinar because we incorporate social networking tools (such as Ning) to create opportunities for attendees to network and connect. Sessions run concurrently and are recorded so they may be viewed on demand, a great benefit to time-crunched professionals and international members who no longer need to worry about time differences.

You may be participating in social networking already. If so, you probably have found many different ways to connect with other ASSE members. A multitude of groups, blogs and forums are focused on SH&E. ASSE is supportive in building these communities, but the real drivers of these conversations are you, the members. By sharing your thoughts and adding to the dialogue, you create value for all members.

If you haven’t given social media a try, I urge you to do so. Talk with your friends, colleagues and fellow members. Find out where they are communicating and join in. You will find it not only fun, but also valuable. If you need a place to start, connect to me. You’ll find me at www.asse.org/­get­connected.