For a long time there has been debate as to whether ‘social media’ is the correct term for the online sites such as Facebook, Twitter and the like. I recently experienced the true power of social media and would tend to agree that it goes beyond ‘social’ media. I would describe it as ‘network’ media and this is why.
For a while now I have been mulling over an idea for a new app. I have the skills myself to plan, design and write the specifications for the app, but not being a developer I need someone who I can work with to do this. Having plenty of people I know, and have previously worked with, who are developers I thought that I would send a tweet (which will automatically then publish to my Facebook wall) asking “anyone out there in my network per chance a tame iOS developer? I have an app idea and looking for someone to dev it for me. Get in touch.” I sent this yesterday (10th January 2013) and the intention of my message had been to elicit a response from people I knew, but the key word I had used was ‘network’ and that took on a whole new meaning over the course of the following 8 hours.
Within an hour I had received tweets from 3 freelance developers, none of whom were followers of mine or people I followed. I also did not know them through Facebook. As the day continued I received further contact from people offering their company or themselves as a possible developer of my app project. This escalated to the point where by the end of the working day, only a matter of 4 or 5 hours after I had posted the tweet, I had been inundated with people offering development services and not one of them was someone I knew, followed or was following me. The power of Twitter as a networking tool was really beginning to show, whilst Facebook had shamefully failed to deliver a single response). Nonetheless, this was useful. I opened a dialogue on Twitter with a couple of the more promising developers and passed them my private gmail account to continue the conversation.
But then things started to get a little bit uncomfortable. In logging in to my privately owned domain, where I reserve an email address for non-spam type personal things, I found an email waiting for me from another Indian based app agency, quoting my Tweet in the subject line. I try to limit the use of this email for such things so I immediately wondered where they had got this from. I responded and asked some pertinent questions about their service, experience and rates and also queried where they had got my email address from. It was beginning to feel a little bit like being stalked but as a savvy digital operator I wasn’t that concerned and as I got into the car to drive home that day I reflected on the merits of Twitter as a networking tool as well as a social tool. And then my phone rang…
The voice that greeted me on the other end of the phone was a charming and very well spoken Indian woman who said that she was one of the business development managers at an India based app development house. She asked if it would be convenient to chat with me about the requirements for the app I wanted to develop. I politely asked if she could email me through some examples of their work and their rate, expecting her to ask for my email address, but instead she thanked me for my time and hung up. By the time I got home (a 45 minute drive) an email from her was awaiting me. So she already had my email address as well, albeit my google one rather than my private one.
Today I have received further contact from other people, freelance and agency, offering to help me. They have been based in Los Angeles, New York, India and Sri Lanka and the list continues to grow. Because they have my google email I have also had a gtalk request from one of the Indian freelance developers. One of the agencies has also re-tweeted my comment, opening up the network of people who will directly see my comment even further, let alone those who will see it based on a word filter – which the original contactees must have done. The world really is networked and ready to respond.
What is quite amazing about this experience is the willingness of people to contact someone across this medium. From one comment I have received dozens of responses and none of them are people are know. What is even more amazing is the amount of people who have contacted me directly having seen the tweet, rather than via Twitter, as they have gone to the effort of searching for my email. In one case it must have been by going to one of my websites and pulling it from there. Some might find the whole experience a little intrusive, especially if they had meant the tweet to be strictly for those who know them as I had originally intended. For me, however, it highlights a whole new possibility for networking and finding people who can help me push forward a development. In the space of a couple of hours I had achieved more than a recruiter would have done for me in 2 weeks, and more importantly it was all free. Even better, I didn’t have anything lost in translation in terms of my requirements as a non-technical recruiter wasn’t the one talking to them.
Having had this experience my eyes have been opened a little more to the power and usefulness of Twitter. There are a couple of things to take from this, most importantly how easy it is for someone to find your contact details. If you don’t want them to have an email address then make sure it isn’t listed anywhere as these people are persistent. The second is that if you are going to put a message like that out there, expect to receive this kind of response. As this sort of thing develops I anticipate it will become harder to sort the wheat from the chaff and new ways will need to be found to allow people to eliminate ‘spam’ responses. But for the time being I urge people to see the power of network media, for that is what it is. Don’t forget, we are all linked by 6 people or less. Social is out…networking is in!
(P.S. It is still shocking that none of my colleagues want to earn any extra cash, as none of them have responded!)