Welcome to the Age of Sharing TMI
Once upon a time, you'd be sitting around chatting with friends, reminiscing about the past, and some inane/innocuous question would pop up.
"Hey," says a friend while swigging from a bottle of Sam Adams, "who was it that sang the song 'Me and You and a Dog Named Boo,' cuz I loved that song when I was a little girl."
The guesses would abound. The Partridge Family? Good guess, but incorrect. Eric Carmen? Nah, he was the guy who sang the song from Dirty Dancing. Wasn't it that guy who got sent to prison for child porn, Gary Glitter? Did he even sing? On and on you'd prattle, until the group stopped caring and jumped to the topic of their favorite Hogan's Heroes episode.
Of course, now it only takes a few seconds for Google to reveal that Lobo reached No. 5 on the U.S. charts in 1971 with the wistful hippie dreaming song. No one's bashing the information age, mind you, which has helped shrink the world and brought everyone who cares to learn into the know. But now, bored with general knowledge, perhaps we've reached a saturation point by getting deep into other people's lives...and business.
Thanks in part to blogs, professional networking applications like LinkedIn, social sites such as Facebook and hyper-updating platforms like Twitter, the lines are being blurred. Facebook trampled over MySpace as the hub for Generation Xers. Now, long-lost friends living thousands of miles apart can list their five favorite cereals, top 10 memories from high school and the five people you'd really love to kick in the teeth (not a joke, an actual survey). I chose Johnny Depp...I shan't elaborate.
Once you're on the site, the friend invites start flying in. Grade school chums who moved away, high school loves now living in Boise with three kids, college fraternity drinking buddies who are now day traders, and the guy you saw every summer at the shore because his parents and your parents both owned houses there. The site essentially transports you back in time, providing the Internet's answer to "This is Your Life."
These personal sites are innocuous for the most part, but they offer just enough rope for people to hang themselves. Some have managed to get themselves fired from their jobs due to unflattering remarks about their employers made on Facebook. Recently, I checked out the Twitter page of a PR flak repping a printer and was greeted by a photo of the woman pressed seductively against another woman. Hey, no one's judging, but we need a strict adherence to church and state; LinkedIn should only be used for professional applications and Facebook/MySpace should only be for friends and family. If you Twitter, do one for professional purposes and another for private.
Now then, how do you turn social networking sites into profit centers? Do you use it to advertise your shop's capabilities, or are you helping your clients reach their end users through these sources? We'd like to hear from you in a Comment below.