Drinking from the Virtual Water Cooler

Published Monday, June 28, 2010 8:31 AM

The office water cooler provides more than refreshment: it's the hub of office chit chat about World Cup standings and weekend plans while simultaneously being the front-line of critical office information. So what happens when a work environment is water cooler-less?

Given the value of informal water cooler communications, remote employees and nomadic workers need to fill the void. Happily, the explosion of social networking sites allows for just such a virtual gathering spot. Networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn allow users to mingle online, building professional networks and exchanging ideas and information virtually. Social networking can also provide inspiration, boost morale and mitigate feelings of isolation.

Looking to tap into the virtual water cooler community? It's important to understand that social networks generally fall into two categories. They are:

  • Horizontal networks: Broad networks where anyone can belong. Examples include: Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Twitter.
  • Vertical networks: Niche networks, often organized by profession such as Military.com, Policelink, LinkedIn or by area of interest such as BabyCenter, Dogster, Ravelry, (a knitting network).

Location independent workers should spend time thinking about what type of network best meets their needs. Perhaps it's a broad network such as Facebook used in combination with a niche community focused on your profession. Or you may prefer to stick to one network and concentrate on optimizing relationships in one place. Remember, building and managing social networks requires the same nurturing as face-to-face office relationships.

Needs tips on "tweeting" and "friending" a virtual water cooler network? Check out this collection of articles and resources on how social media:

Today, more than 300 million users are on social networking sites and the Wall Street Journal recently declared that Facebook and Twitter have dethroned e-mail as the king of communication.

So, stop by the virtual water cooler and check in.


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