Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

On Developing a Personal Online Networking Strategy

By Dennis D. McDonald

Would you benefit from having  a personal online networking strategy? A "personal online networking strategy" is a coherent view of how you use various media for communicating and managing relationships with other individuals and groups. Such a strategy should address:

  1. Identity and Privacy
  2. Friends, Family and Work
  3. Tools and Technology

Identity and Privacy

You need to decide what type of identity you want to create and how you reveal -- or don't reveal -- all of your identity to others. By "type of identity" I mean the type of image or personality you want to project.

Once you go online you lose the ability to completely control how you are presented to others. Think long and hard about what you place into a message, database, or social network. Others for good or ill will be able to gather this information together and redistribute it in ways you may not anticipate or approve of. Because of that, you may want t create a secure "official" version of yourself where others can always go to see the "official" you that is online. (I use the blog located at / for this purpose.)

Friends, Family and Work

You need to decide about the degree you want to segregate communications and content that are associated with the different social environments in which you operate. My shorthand for this is "Friends, Family, and Work." This may also include your teams, volunteer groups, place of worship, and other circles in which you travel.

Some will adopt a strategy where such distinctions are not made. Others will try to keep communications with different groups separate.

Neither approach can be completely successful. Most people fit into more than one group. Groups will also differ in terms of the tools and techniques they are comfortable using (see below).

My recommendation is to pay close attention to the relationship between the intended recipient of a message and the appropriateness of others seeing it.

In the long run, the fact that we communicate differently with different individuals and groups will probably mean that we will always use different tools for communicating and maintaining relationships with different groups. That was just as true in the day of Ma Bell and thee national television networks as it is today. 

Tools & Technology

Which systems should you use, depending on how you approached the first two areas discussed above?

One simple rule is to "shoot where the ducks are." Use the tools and technologies that are used by the people you want to communicate and develop relationships with. Following this rule, the larger and more diverse the group you want to network with, the more "common denominator" or "plain vanilla" the tools or system you will probably use.

On the other hand, the smaller or more tightly focused the group is, the more innovative or exotic you can afford to be.

Whichever route you follow, be aware (a) that tools change constantly, and (b) everyone in your group may be at a different place with respect to adopting new systems, tools, or technologies. Keep that in mind especially when you attempt to involve several individuals in a singe online or real-time conversation.

Request for Comments

What do you think of these high level rules? Do they make sense to you? Am I leaving anything out?  Please leave a comment below or email comments or questions to



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