Are you a proactive or reactive social networker?

I’ve had plenty of conversations with people over the years about social networking (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn etc). Based on those conversations, I find that there are many types of social network users, but for now, we’re going to concentrate on two: reactive and proactive.

Reactive social networkers experience life and then post about it. It becomes your next blog post, your next Twitter, a picture posted on Flickr or your next status update on Facebook. Simply stated, life happened and you want to tell people about it. The main benefit to this approach is that it gives you “presence” with your friends, family and colleagues.  It asks and answers the question, “What am I doing?”

Proactive social networking is completely different. When you view each social network proactively, you have a baseline understanding that whether you like it or not, every Twitter, blog, picture posted, or comment left, is one step towards building your personal brand and reputation. Like the butterfly effect, each contribution builds upon another to create what people, especially those who only know you online, will know you by. The main benefit to this approach is that YOU determine how people know and judge you. It requires you think beyond “What am I doing?” but also about, “What do I want to be about? What am I interested in? What am I learning? Who am I learning from?” Proactive social networking asks and answers many questions, not just one.

When it comes down to it, your intentions, whether defined or not, is what drives your expectations for social network activity. For me, I choose to utilize these networks as a tool in which I can learn, engage, extend my “network” and inspire people to make their mark on this world. For many, and probably most people, it’s a tool in which you keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. One is not right over another. It’s how you choose to use the tools.

Seth Godin says, “Many of us are taught to do our best and then let the world decide how to judge us. I think it’s better to do your best and decide how you want to be judged. And act that way.”

Do you agree?

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