Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog

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Just How Transparent Are You?

There are basically three types of people when it comes to Social Media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Beyond the definition of when they adopt new technology, these categories stem from how they adopt the new technology, if at all.

The “all-in” group sees all the advantages of using these tools for personal and business networking and enlightenment from others. These tech savvy, outgoing folks love to communicate with everyone and share thoughts and latest information (not just on themselves, but anything of interest to their community).

There are the “only-as-much-as-required” folks who dabble in these tools to stay in tune with their friends and colleagues. Many start up accounts and don’t do much with them, and don’t learn what these tools really can do (other than the obvious).

And naturally, you have the “doubters” who say they doubt these tools have any value to them. Their reasoning often includes the fear of transparency. They do not want to be “too assessable” to the general public. They have concerns about befriending people they don’t know personally. They want to “guard their personal information.”

Let’s talk about the “doubters” today. Let’s dig into these fears.

First all of, we need to recognize that we are already “out there” in this digital age. Our mortgage information, our driving records, our spending habits, our credit rating. It’s out there and anyone with a little bit of Internet savvy can get it. It’s no different than getting listed in the phone book. Remember the movie The Jerk?  Remember how excited Steve Martin was to be listed?

Navin R. Johnson: The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!
Harry Hartounian: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.
Navin R. Johnson: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 – Johnson, Navin R.! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity – your name in print – that makes people. I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.

We can appreciate the humor in this, but how about the reality? Data on you is in the “digital phonebook of all information in the universe.” It’s there–nothing can stop that. If someone wants to find it, they will. With this in mind, maybe we need to just accept it and more importantly, leverage it ourselves. Find new friends, business contacts, subject-matter experts, reviewers of things we enjoy.  Enjoy your 15 minutes, days, years of self-perceived fame.

Our culturally best example of embracers of transparency are the “millennials.” These 80 million people were born between 1981 and 2000 and have grown up with the Internet. According to Microsoft, the percentage of millennials using various forms of networking technology in their day-to-day lives are as follows: social networking sites, 77 percent; instant messaging, 71 percent; and wikis, 59 percent. They want all their friends to know where they are so they can stay in touch or spontaneously meet up.

Imagine going to New York City on a whim, pulling up an application on your phone and seeing instantaneously where all your friends are in the city—then Tweeting them to say you’re there—then meeting up for the cup of coffee down the street. It likely may be someone they met on-line and never met in person before. Millennials have friends all over the world, not just in their neighborhood or cube jungle. I’ve met new people from all over through Facebook—interesting people. I’ve learned much about the Australian economy, Canadian weather, and tourism in Florida just through a few chats.

This kind of spontaneity is changing the way we plan events, meetings, and social get-togethers. We use Evite, we send out Tweets on the day of the event, we send event notifications through Facebook. Remember, you can’t be invited if you’re not in their version of the phonebook.

In the business world, the strongest endorsement a small business can have—word of mouth—is changing, too. Common scenario: Friends ask their network through Facebook, “who knows a good accountant?” Responses come flowing back, some saying, “Try my CPA—you can find him in my LinkedIn contacts.” This assumes, of course, their CPA is transparent enough to be in people’s contacts in the first place.

This transparency also allows us to instantly connect with people with common interests that may become our new best friends.  Looking for someone to ride bikes with Saturday mornings in your town?  With a large enough virtual network, you’re already connected to them with little effort.  In Social Media, you can connect using any search terms you want.  Have your own beer home brewing company and want to compare techniques with others?  Try typing “home brewing beer” in the search window in

In the end, it’s all about relationships. And in this new world, we have the opportunity to have many more than ever before. You might only be a “listing in the phonebook,” but now every listing is at our fingertips. Embrace the change that has connected the entire globe.

Additional Information:

There is a lot of discussion about how to leverage these new relationships. I read an interesting article called Social Capital from Networking Online by Clara Shih that I recommend to learn more about this. Here are some excerpts:

Consciously or unconsciously, people are using sites like Facebook and LinkedIn as tools for maximizing their social capital (the currency of business interactions and relationships) from relationships.

Individuals with greater social capital close more deals, are better respected, and get higher-ranking jobs. Online social networks offer access to social capital, empowering those who are well connected with private information, diverse skill sets, and others’ energy and attention.

Early research already shows that bringing networks online makes people more capable and efficient at accumulating, managing, and exercising social capital. Consciously or unconsciously, people are using sites like Facebook and LinkedIn as tools for maximizing their social capital from relationships.


March 29, 2009 - Posted by | General Musings, Social Media


  1. […] essays & effluvia placed an observative post today on Just How Transparent Are You?Here’s a quick excerptRemember the movie The Jerk?  Remember how excited Steve Martin was to be … be a “listing in the phonebook,” but now every listing is at our […]

    Pingback by Topics about Movies » Archive » Just How Transparent Are You? | March 30, 2009 | Reply

  2. Great post, Jeff. I think a laid off person right now could easily start a new career as “Social Media Coach” — for a fee go to any of the 99 percent businesses that don’t have a SM profile yet and don’t understand the value and — quickly set up LinkedIn, Facebook and Facebook fan pages for the business. And, for the extra premium, help them create a blog, capture and edit video and capture and edit sound. This is all stuff I’ve taught myself how to do in the past couple of months. Granny can’t do it, but Joe’s Auto Body Shop can work magic with before and after videos, etc.

    Comment by Dave Lieber | March 30, 2009 | Reply

  3. Excellent post. A couple of things…

    1 – The lack of commitment of the “only-as-much-as-required” folks, in certain scenarios, can actually do more brand damage than not participating at all.

    2 – I have a much more cynical opinion of the “doubters” who fear of transparency ( and why they are that way ), but will withhold it in hopes that this post is the first in a series.

    3 – “…In the end, it’s all about relationships. And in this new world, we have the opportunity to have many more than ever before.”

    Actually that’s false. It’s all about Social Objects, as described by Jyri Engeström.

    Social Capital, Social Peripheral Vision and the relationships that form are the yield, the value accrued, of Social Objects.

    Comment by Todd | April 7, 2009 | Reply

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