I just recently wrote about how Twitter has become my default source of conversation. My company is virtual, meaning that we are always mobile. I have a home office, or sometimes I work at the local cafe (where my wife won the local Apple Pie Bake-Off!), but I never use a desktop computer, haven’t been reliant on a big corporation infrastructure since 2000, so I am always mobile. Mobility has its advantages. I can work where I wish, when I wish, and often, if I wish. But there is a drawback to not being tied to a place. There is no water cooler discussion. There are no office shenanigans (I am not sure that my kids clamoring to play games on my iPhone count as office mayhem). So, increasingly, being mobile is about creating a mesh of relationships that must be forced into existence and continually fed to grow. When you live in a town with as many dairy cows as people, the chances that you will run into a hard-charging mobile aficionado who thinks about Web 2.0 (3.0?) who can be your go-to sounding board are pretty slim. So, I must drive relationships and create remote connections that are valuable and lasting. This is different than creating friends. Friends are rare. But social networks are critical to business, information and community.
I was just reading with great interest, Charlene Li’s posting on The Future of Social Media . She paints a great picture of social networks that are aware of what you do rather than what you profile. So, for instance, Facebook would be able to see that you e-mail or Tweet or IM your friend, Susan, on a daily basis. Facebook would make you two friends automatically. LinkedIn would know that you work with Bob, so you’d automatically join in each other’s network. That is a fantastic notion, and, I suspect, where we are headed.
But what about today? How do mobile workers create this loose mesh of social contacts and relationships. Here are a few ways that I do, and that make my life richer. And, I use all of these from my laptop or iPhone, and I am always on the move:
- Twitter : It is my constant companion. Frankly, I am a little shy about posting things like “I am headed to the Mall to return my Old Navy sweater” This seems like a bit of grinding minutiae that I don’t even care about. But as a source of inspiration, news, and provocation, I have found nothing more exciting. I use TweetDeck on my laptop and Twinkle on my iPhone.
- GMail Contacts: The suggested contacts feature. while not revolutionary, is really nice. It reminds me of whom I am communicating with at the moment and that spurs me to connect with them.
- Facebook : Frankly, I use Facebook almost exclusively via my iPhone. I love catching up on the photos of my distant friends. Facebook, for me, is more about keeping up with my real friends, more than social network contacts. And for me, the most important part about Facebook is looking at and uploading photos. Love it.
- TripIt : I travel often, and TripIt lets me see where my friends and professional colleagues (who have also opted into TripIt) are traveling. It would be infinitely cooler if this were integrated into my personal profile on Facebook, or wherever, but it keeps me in touch with others on the go.
- Yelp : Like Facebook, I almost always use Yelp via mobile. It helps me decide where to eat or grab coffee when I am someplace new. I follow a few Yelpers in various cities. In this case, I am largely a lurker, not contributing to the discussion, but benefiting from the aggregate experiences. Perhaps I will get more active. I just have soooo many things to update. (And OpenTable is pretty good too)
- Hulu /You Tube : While not really a social activity, traveling brings with it some missed television shows. I can almost always find them on Hulu or YouTube. You Tube, with its commenting features, is vastly superior than Hulu in a social way, but the content is better on Hulu.
- Instant Messaging: There was a time, specifically when I worked in a big company, that instant messaging was all the rage. Now I use it sporadically, but Skype and GTalk are wonderful phone replacements.