With the click of a mouse, you can find a former classmate now living halfway around the world. You can also connect with fellow professionals in your area. You can even track your friends' day-to-day movements " in real time.
But what impact does this have on our personal and professional lives? And when does keeping track of all of these sites become more of a burden than a benefit? Those are some of the topics explored in "The Age of Conversation 2," a book written through the collaboration of 237 marketing professionals from around the world, including two from the metro.
Kevin Jessop, principal at Oklahoma City's Evolve Research and author of the blog Enable Usability, was recruited to the project by friend Chris Wilson, a designer/marketing strategist with Hester Designs. Wilson is also the author of the blog The Marketing Fresh Peel. After helping promote the first "The Age of Conversation," Wilson decided to submit an essay to the second volume, which benefits Variety, an international children's charity.
Jessop has long been a proponent of online communities, and has seen both personal and professional benefits " he even met his wife online about eight years ago. But while "social media" is a buzzword, Jessop said people may not understand what it means to them, and how they can use it. His essay addresses the balance needed to maintain social media's usefulness.
"At what point does it become more of a chore to keep all these things updated?" he said. "When does it begin to lose its real appeal of just being able to share and be able to stay in contact? When does it begin to become more of a burden?"
Sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are still valuable for promoting your company or meeting others in your industry, Jessop said. Oklahoma City has an active Twitter community, he added, which helps generate interest in professional organizations, such as the American Marketing Association, of which Jessop is a member.
"It's always good when you see someone you know from Twitter. It's kind of like you know them already, so you don't need to get the introductions out of the way, because you know what they do, you know who they are. You've just never met them physically," he said.
Wilson credits online networking with advancing his career. Recently, for example, he e-mailed the author of a popular business book after connecting through the Internet with someone who knew that author " something he says wouldn't have been possible before these online tools.
"Understanding online networking and how easy it is " people don't realize how easy it is to connect with almost anyone if you can find them in the right space through online tools," he said.
Wilson's essay examines the impact of social media on the advertising and marketing industries and the "new breed of creative."
"Where are we going to find these people, to integrate social media and digital marketing and all this?" he said. "I was looking at how the industry is changing, and how, really, the world is changing, and how ad agencies and marketers and designers need to adapt to this new model."
Jessop hopes the book will serve as a guide for newcomers to online social networking, encouraging them to become involved, but he also shared a few cautionary tales.
"I think it will help people make up their minds: 'What should I do, what shouldn't I do?' And they can learn from others' mistakes," he said.
In addition to the insights shared by the essays, there's a lot to learn from how the book itself was put together, Wilson said.
"The way the project came together, it really presents a new model," he said. "It shows the possibilities of what we can do with technology and social media, and being able to network with anyone around the world."
For example, he said, this same model could work well for textbooks, allowing them to be produced quickly and more efficiently, and making it easier to include expert insight, rather than depending solely on extensive and time-consuming research.
Both Jessop and Wilson said one of the most attractive aspects of the project was the donation of part of the proceeds to charity.
"It puts everyone on equal playing field, and keeps everyone from asking for royalties or things like that, and it creates an open ownership of the project," Wilson said.
And Jessop thinks most of the book's authors prefer it that way.
"I've dealt a lot with online communities and things like this, and everyone is motivated to do it just because of the feeling of camaraderie and the fact that it goes to charity. I don't think it could have been done any other way," he said."Lea Terry