Ambient Awareness and Connecting Online

What is ambient awareness? Here’s an example: right now you might know what your old college roommate had for breakfast this morning, even though you live 2,000 miles apart and haven’t traded emails or phone calls in months. And how do you know? You saw it on Facebook, in a tweet or a blog post. Social media has the power to keep friends connected and up-to-date on everything from vacations to favorite foods to new year’s resolutions, all without picking up the phone or penning a letter.

But beyond maintaining personal friendships, how might ambient awareness be useful?

It can help build community: Headmasters like Lee Burns of the Presbyterian Day School can communicate with students and parents using social media tools. By posting about a book he’s read and discussing how it relates to education, he gives the campus community the opportunity to join in on the conversation – both in person and online.

It can be a networking tool: these days, it’s not who you know but who you don’t know. Follow people in your field you respect and admire (read their blog or follow them on Twitter). Not sure where to start? Try sites like Twiangulate to identify those you aren’t following, but should be. Participate in the conversation by posting a comment when you have relevant thoughts and ideas to share. You stay informed about tools and trends, you build an online reputation for being an informed, engaged participant, and your interactions online may lead to offline networking connections.

It can promote a brand or initiative: companies like Coca-Cola are using Facebook not only to advertise their products, but as a way to spread the word about their philanthropic endeavors. You can use social media tools to augment your message for a new initiative, brand, product or goal, and interact with your constituents in a space they’re already invested in, keeping your fans aware of the latest info and updates.

Maybe all of this seems obvious, but it’s important to remember: social media lets you establish, build and maintain relationships in ways we were unable to easily accomplish before. Wield this tool wisely.

Thanks to Travis Warren of WhippleHill for making me aware of Lee Burns’s social media presence.

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