Larry BraunerCommunication is the backbone of online networking.

In my post of November 11th I discussed the “High Tech/High Touch” concept, and on November 13th I discussed different forms of communication and “the asynchronous nature of social networking sites”.

According to the principle of “High Tech/High Touch” we need more rather than less intimate communication in these digital times.

Social networking sites present us with excellent tools to communicate asynchronously through commenting, messaging, posting bulletins and posting blogs.

There are new advances almost daily, but social networking sites still only partially address our need to relate more intimately in real time through synchronous channels such as instant messaging, telephony, video and face-to-face meetings.

To network more successfully, get more personal!

One thing that might hold you back is a concern for your personal security, especially if you’re a woman, and even more so if you’re a single woman. I will suggest several ways to mitigate this concern.

You could also be uncomfortable getting closer to a certain individual (hopefully not me LOL). Rely on your instincts and intuition. Exercise good judgment — but don’t be overly paranoid.

Here are my favorite ways to ensure a modicum of privacy while taking communication to the next level. They complement networking on any site.

  1. Get a headset with a microphone for US$20 or so, and download Skype to your computer. Skype lets you talk for free and anonymously to other users all over the world. It also permits small conference calls. With a headset both of your hands will be free to operate your computer or to take notes.
  2. Give out your cell phone number. You’ll enjoy the convenience of speaking anytime anywhere without revealing your full name or your address. Some disadvantages of using your cell phone are that you might incur cost and that you may receive annoying calls from time to time. You must decide for yourself whether it’s worth it.
  3. Get your own free conference number and PIN. You and your friend can call in at the same time to speak. If it’s your conference line, you can be sure that there’s no way to capture your phone number. The main down side here is that this protects you but not the other person.
  4. Install Trillian on your computer. Trillian lets you instant message people on Yahoo, MSN, ICQ and AIM all from one program. Instant messaging is not as good as talking, but it’s real time and interactive — definitely a step in the right direction.
  5. Starbucks anybody?

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Larry Brauner

We consider three ways to organize your contacts within social networking sites.

Many social networking sites let you select Top Friends and Favorites, public and private lists respectively of your most important contacts.

Visitors don’t need to click through to another page to view your Top Friends. They’re right there “on top”.

You implicitly recommend to others that they visit your Top Friends and connect with them.

Sites generally establish a maximum number of Top Friends. Therefore, as you meet new people, or as your priorities change, you may need to delete some Top Friends to make room for new ones.

Your Favorites on the other hand cannot be viewed by anybody except you. Sites do not generally establish maximums for Favorites or the maximums are large.

You can use your Favorites for your contact list, people with whom you wish to stay in touch. And when you decide that you no longer wish to re-contact a person, you simply delete them from your Favorites.

I use my Favorites list this way in Direct Matches, MySpace and Yuwie, three of my favorite networking sites, as a sort of folder.

If you prefer, you can organize your contact list in a more detailed or systematic fashion using your browser’s Bookmarking capabilities. You can save a link to each important contact’s profile page or each important blog post.

You can easily create folders and sub-folders of Bookmarks (even a sub-folder for each contact with links to his or her profiles and blog posts on multiple social networking sites).

While Bookmarking can be tedious, it offers plenty of control and flexibility.

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