By Donna Cosmato
Whether you are a social network addict, a novice dabbler, or you are thinking about trying online networking, you probably have some questions about the advantages and disadvantages of social networking. For example, can it really increase one's productivity or does it just waste valuable time? How safe is it? Before you invest too heavily in online social communities, be sure to do your due diligence so you are aware of the risk versus the reward. Here's what you need to know to help you make an informed decision.
Five Advantages of Social Networking
1. Worldwide Connectivity
No matter if you are searching for that former college roommate, your first grade teacher, or an international friend, there is no easier or faster way to make a connection than via the social network. Although Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace are probably the most well known social networking communities, there are new websites popping up regularly that are dedicated to allowing people to connect and to interact via the Internet. Through such sites, individuals make new friends or business connections or extend their personal base by connecting and interacting with friends of friends and so forth.
These connections can help one with a variety of things such as:
• Finding romance
• Seeking a new job
• Locating assistance
• Getting and giving product and service referrals
• Receiving support from like-minded individuals
• Making or receiving advice on career or personal issues
In many ways, social communities are the virtual equivalent of meeting at the general store or at church socials to exchange news and get updated on friends and families. Snail mail pen pals have been replaced by virtual avatars and private messages sent via the social network.
2. Commonality of Interest
When you opt to participate in a social network community, you can pick and choose those individuals whose likes and dislikes are similar to yours and build your network around those commonalities. For instance, if you are a chess aficionado or a book lover, you can find and interact with those who share your interest. Because you are connecting digitally instead of having to physically attend meetings, you have the luxury of joining many more groups and communities. You can meet with your friends anytime you have an Internet connection and whenever you find them online.
3. Real-Time Information Sharing
Many social networking sites incorporate an instant messaging feature, which means you can exchange information in real-time via a chat. This is a great feature for teachers to use to facilitate classroom discussions. A study by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation shows these networks can be used as effective vehicles for students to pursue self-paced online learning. In addition, the Internet is the ultimate online textbook. Students no longer need to take out six library books at a time. Much of what they need to know they can find online.
School is not the only setting where this type of real-time information sharing can be beneficial. Social networking can provide a tool for managers to utilize in team meetings, for conference organizers to use to update attendees and for business people to use as a means of interacting with clients or prospects.
4. Free Advertising
Whether you are non-profit organization who needs to get the word out about your upcoming fundraiser or a business owner marketing a new product or service, there's no better way to get your message in front of millions of people 24/7. The best part is it that you can spread the word through social networking profiles for free. You can promote one product, service or idea or many because you are limited only by the amount of time you wish to invest in the endeavor.
5. Increased News Cycle Speed
Social networking has revolutionized the speed of...