Avoiding the Herd Mentality—One Social Network Does Not Fit All

Choosing the right social networks depends on many factors, including the amount of time you have, the mediums you are most comfortable operating in, and very importantly, the attitude of your employer toward social tools.

Social networks are not just about the job search - they are about making the industry connections to help you to do your job better day in, day out. That said, many companies take a conservative stance. Example: despite the many productive SAP conversations taking place on Twitter, Twitter can be seen as off limits - a dangerous time waster.

It's not a question of value - whether it's Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or SCN, you can find value in all of them. It's more a question of style and cultural fit. Even within SCN, there are those who are more at home on the wikis, some in the forums; others prefer blogging or commenting on blogs. I'm more of a podcaster, preferring the in-depth conversations that format provides. Fellow SAP Mentor Dennis Howlett has set a standard around video reporting and customer interviews.

Other examples: SAP Mentors like Vijay Vijayasankar or Thorsten Franz have big blogger followings on SCN. Other SAP pros are part of a very active community of SAP "peeps" on Twitter. There are too many to cite here, but two that come to mind as I'm writing are SAP Mentor Anne Petteroe (@yojibee) and SAP's Martin Lang (@martinlang). If you're looking for SAP peeps to follow on Twitter, Oliver Kohl (@oliver on Twitter) has put together an "SAP Affinity Group" - Twitter users by SAP affinity here. You can even add yourself!

As for me, I've had to learn through good old fashioned trial and error. To do this, I've thrown out all the rules (such as "blog every day") and charted my own course. In my case, I enjoy blogging, but daily is out of the question for detailed posts I like to write. That's why on a daily basis, I prefer the immediacy of Twitter. Riffing on the SAP market 140 characters at a time works for me. Others find Twitter a timesuck or an overwhelming flow of information. Of course, there are ways of linking these mediums together, such as integrating your Twitter statuses to LinkedIn or Facebook, or adding an SCN blog widget to LinkedIn.

Some SAP high achievers are doing just fine without much participation on online networks - but they are still social in their way, organizing live events or serving on influence councils. The end goal is recognition through a process of community contributions, each one a reward in itself. The medium doesn't matter. Volunteering with user groups like ASUG, presenting at conferences and authoring white papers - all have value in the "path to recognition." Hype aside, social networks are just a subset of a larger menu of options for sharing knowledge that have been around for a long time. Trial and error led me to decide how much time I will spend on each network. That means ignoring pressure and well-meaning advice on where to spend that time. The same is true for all of us.

The best rule for social networks:

Choose an approach where you can be consistent. Limit your platforms to those you can maintain in a manageable way. If all you have time for is commenting on SCN blogs, then that's what you do.

Here are the right questions to ask of your SAP networking activities:

• "Is this helping me do my job better?" and

• "Is this making me smarter and connecting me to people who are providing valuable feedback?"

If "yes" to both, you're on the right track. The rest is hype.

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