Are you LinkedIn or linked out?

Remember the dot-com era? We were made to feel like dinosaurs unless we were part of a dot-com business. They claimed it was a new business model that rewrote the rules.Most of them weren’t making any money. The new model claimed profit was passé, unnecessary. In fact, we were made to feel like imbeciles for even raising questions.If you remember the dot-com era, you also remember the bust. People who invested in these ludicrous business models lost their shirts. When reality hit, they discovered the ‘p’ word wasn’t just another 20th century acronym. We just might have to struggle through the 21st century with it as well.Well, we never learn. They’re doing it to us again. If you aren’t totally invested in social media to the point of several hours a day, you’re not even modern enough to be a dinosaur.If you’re a professional, you absolutely have to be on LinkedIn. Trying hard not to become a fossil before my time, I actually am. In fact, I was one of the early ones, signing up shortly after it became available. I don’t use it for much, but I do scan the weekly summaries that come my way.Ham radio operators have something they call the signal-to-noise ratio. I find there’s an awful lot of noise between occasionally valuable signals, but I’m not going to dump LinkedIn. Becoming a fossil is too scary.However, I have ignored numerous invitations to join a half-dozen or so social media forums. Time is the most precious commodity we have. When we waste it, we can never recover it. You can lose a fortune and make a new one, but it’s impossible to recover lost time. Checking all these forums and responding appropriately would take a lot of time.Interestingly, many of the most influential people I know don’t use social media. Maybe they’re fossils like me, but maybe, just maybe, their time is far too valuable to waste it on the latest fad, especially if it doesn’t help them achieve their goals.When I ask people who are ‘fully connected’ what they get from all that effort, I’m told, ‘It’s really good stuff.’For instance?That seems to be the killer question. The examples provided are seldom, if ever, compelling.Staying in touchOur wonderful technologies provide us with more communications options than ever before, but we often use them to communicate trivial, if not thoroughly inconsequential, information. It’s vitally important to ensure the ones we do use provide real value.I’ve worked in 12 foreign countries as well as all over the U.S. I have friends and colleagues as far away as Hong Kong, and I’ve maintained relationships with them without social media for over 20 years in some cases. Email, video conferencing, and even that oh-so-20th-century telephone can work wonders.In fact, a handwritten letter or card through the mail with a real stamp will often get more attention than all of the above.Has anyone ever printed one of your Facebook postings and displayed it on their desk like a birthday or Christmas card?Yes, these are far less convenient, but people appreciate it when we take a little trouble for them, and that’s the key. Real relationships require effort. If you don’t believe me, try getting away with just a ‘tweet’ to your significant other on Valentine’s Day. Let us know how you make out.And if you’ve got 300 or 400 connections or ‘friends,’ how many do you really know? These are the few, who will actually recommend you or go out on a limb for you. Unless you build real relationships with them, they’re just taking your time.Some dot-coms survived, but those had sound business practices and found ways to make money.Some social media is probably here to stay, but unless we’re using it for truly meaningful communications, it’s just another drain on our efforts.Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 604-898-1871 or