Before You Tweet or Update Your Facebook Status, Ask: "What's Your Silver Bullet?"
According to Experian Hitwise data, more than one in every 10 visits online is attributable to a social networking site like Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. At 10.5 percent of all Internet visits in the United States, social networks have surpassed search engines as the most visited category of sites on the Internet.
But given that the explosion of social networking is fueled, in part, by a growing number of inane postings, it's clear that popularity does not equal utility.
In the initial days of social networking and the rising popularity of sites like Twitter, many of us saw great promise in one-to-many and many-to-many communications. The ability to update family and friends, share poignant insight or pass around a favorite news story could possibly change the way we communicate with one another, both in simplifying and enriching our lives 140 characters at a time. But now, as I sift through thousands of tweets and updates, I'm hard-pressed to find value beyond but endless, pointless chatter.
Very early in my business career, I was fortunate to work for a remarkable manager, who after observing me in a meeting, noticed that I was eager to prove myself and spoke every opportunity that I could, with little regard as to what I was saying.
Thankfully, he pulled me aside and taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my professional life. "Think of every point that you want to make, and save your comments for the silver bullets in life, those statements that are truly insightful," he said. "Even if you go a whole meeting without uttering a word, if you wait to speak until you have the opportunity to use a silver bullet, people will come to value what you have to say.
Just recently, when contemplating a status update, my old boss' advice seemed newly relevant. What if my Facebook news feed and Twitter application were filled with silver bullets versus today's variety of OMGs and fan page suggestions for "I bet this page can't get 1,000,000 members."
If we all take that moment to pause and think about enriching the lives of others versus just making our own voices heard, imagine the possibilities.
Bill Tancer is an Internet trend analyst, columnist and author of the New York Times best-seller Click: What Millions Do Online and Why It Matters.