Social Networking – Your call

Kate Griffiths is co-founder of Minervas Mind. Minerva’s Mind helps women especially Mums discover what they are really interested in and to see how, by making more conscious decisions, they can use that new found knowledge to get more from their lives.

We are delighted to welcome Kate as our regular columnist reflecting the views of mums and commenting on work and life from a mums point of view.
So how many of you are members of one or more Ning groups or sites like Mumsrock & Mumslikeyou? There seems to have been an explosion of them in the last year. In my enthusiasm as a Mum starting out in business, I joined all of the ones that I came across. They are all quite cleverly designed in that when you go to the home page, you only see how many members are on the site with a brief intro of what the site covers and what the purpose is. In other words they whet the appetite for more and of course that is good marketing.

Who does not want to be a part of a big community? It all sounds great. Only the thing is that no matter how good the technology is, at the end of the day it all comes down to people and human connections.

Here is an example of what I mean.
One of the most popular sites out there has over 900 members. When I joined I was impressed by the fact that the creator of the site sent me a personal message but that was where it ended. My request to be friends was ignored and when I tried to follow her on twitter, she did not accept my invitation.

Undaunted I then joined another and had a very similar experience.

That second time my focus was on writing blog posts as it was through following the founder of the site on twitter that I found out about it. There was very little response to the posts and my posts were never one of the few that she recommended in her weekly email. When I asked the founder how to get more known on the site, she was very helpful but it made very little difference. At that point I had to ask myself was it worth expending so much energy on social networking sites because the time spent on trying to get to know people, improve traffic to the blog and so forth just did not seem to be working. I had a similar experience with a couple of others and yes I did spend a while lurking in various conversations and adding my penny’s worth of ideas and so forth where I felt I had something of quality to add but it made little difference.

So you may wonder why I am wrote this article, first posted at Mumsrock. There are three reasons.

The first is that I was very impressed by an article I read on the site about Cybermums which I felt was well written.

Second, I have enjoyed a number of engaging twitter conversations with its founder, which inspired me to get this post out there. That relationship only flourished because we are both founder members of a new social networking site, Judith’s room.

Third whilst this might court controversy, my aim is to provoke a discussion about it because I do not believe that I am alone in having these types of experiences.

In essence the reason I think that these experiences are common is because as with so much of life it all comes down to whether individuals are in the “in” crowd. If they are part of that clique then they are guaranteed an audience for their blog posts and other doggerel whether it is any good or not. We all know that success breeds success. In other words if a newbie sees that someone has over a 100 followers on their blog, they think that they must be worth following and probably hope that if they follow the blog then perhaps some of the blog owner’s success will rub off on them. In some ways however there is something rather pernicious about this; one could even say that for those on the outside staring in separated by the glass and longing to find a way in, to be accepted and included, it is a form of cyber bullying.

It reminds me of all the reasons why I did not like school all that much.

Many of these sites are aimed at Mums or Dads that find themselves in a new role as a house parent. That in itself is a major transition and they may have gone online to find support through this change and ways to beat the loneliness and isolation that as the main carer of a child/ children is often the case. They pluck up the courage to join an online social network only to suffer another form of rejection. They engage in the activities of the site like the blogging carnival, attempt tweeting other members of the tribe and are still not given access to the inner sanctum.

So what’s the answer?
It seems defeatist to go the opposite and boycott all social networking sites especially as they are likely to be the fora of engagement for some time to come. If you are a Seth Godin follower, he would say find or create your own tribe. That is easier said than done for many. In my view it is all about remembering that these networks aim to be a community – one of community’s definitions is society. In other words it is up to the members and in particular the founding ones to create an inclusive identity for their group by taking time to get to know newbies and involve them in the community. After all if we take this view and strive to develop some kind of inclusive kinship, we will all be richer for it and gain more from the community too. So what do you think?

Kate Griffiths is co-founder of Minerva’s Mind.
Minerva’s Mind helps women, especially Mums, discover what they are really interested in and to see how, by making more conscious decisions, they can use that new found knowledge to get more from their lives. Created through the passion and energy of two qualified and experienced coaches, who are also mothers to two toddlers each, we are passionate about offering a range of services at affordable prices. Come and join our fast growing community and receive FREE weekly tips on how to get more out of life, read our articles and find out about the other resources available to you through our monthly profile of ordinary women doing extraordinary things. All at www.facebook.com/minervasmind or contact Kate@minervasmind.co.uk

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