Wednesday, July 11, 2007

LinkedIn and Facebook and Flickr - Oh My!

I have been spending a fair amount of time lately thinking about social networks as the 'new' face of the web. Yeah, I know, somebody is always touting the 'next big thing', but I think the concept of social networking is very interesting. Bear with me. I'll get to the fraternity aspect in a minute, but first a little set up for those who don't spend their lives online. Let me quickly say there is little 'geek-speak' in this post, and most of the applications themselves are very friendly to normal humans.

"Social Networking" is loosely defined as a way to set up a local group of people you know and then when sach of them does the same you can be connected to friends-of-friends via introductions or recommendations. It is a simple concept that has spawned some of the fastest growing sites of the past few years. MySpace is the biggest and best known, if not the best reputed site. Facebook started as a site for college students only and has recently become open to all. LinkedIn is focused on building professional relationships. LinkedIn also works with Plaxo, a web based contact manager, to synchronize contacts with both applications. Flickr is an example of how developers are combining networking with other applications. With Flickr you upload you photographs and find others whose work you appreciate. You can tag pictures you like and your friends will see them recommended. You can also join groups of almost unlimited variety - just to view or to contribute your work. There is a random, serendipitous character to the pictures you find that makes it very interesting.

I am interested in making connections that will help me and help this blog get better, so I have joined a number of applications that use the network model.
Here are some of them:

Those are ones I use at least weekly and often daily. They all work best if you have lots of connections. If you are a member too, look me up. If there are other groups you like, pass the info along in the comments.

Now, how does that relate to fraternities, and especially to SigEp?

As I posted a few weeks ago the opportunity to get to know people that you would not normally meet is a great benefit of the fraternity experience. That is exactly what these online groups do too. And when you meet another SigEp in a online group well, so much the better. I have made friends with a number of people that I have yet to see in person. The pictures in the sidebar from the Flickr SigEp group grew from one of those encounters.(By the way - if you have SigEp related pics and would like to join, let us know.) A person from LinkedIn emailed me he was coming to Houston for a few days. We were able to meet and "talk frat" for an evening. The Foundation member registration group is another source of connections. Much of the fraternity leadership - both defined and de facto - is there and most are willing to connect. Facebook has a myriad of active SigEp groups, some with over 4000 members. In fact many of the blog hits we get are via those groups.

With my LinkedIn account I have actively searched for fellow SigEps whom I know or have heard of and would like to know. In some cases I have used my own list of email addresses to search and in others I have asked for introductions from mutual contacts. Bottom line is I have a group of SigEp friends I can contact with business oriented questions, opportunities or even fraternity matters. We also can grow our networks by introducing people we know and trust from all areas. I can't think of a better way to get or send a recommendation or to get back in touch with a brother from the chapter that you have not heard from in several years.

Let's connect and see where it goes!