ORLANDO – When it comes to social networking, it would appear that Orlando is among the most solidly wired cities in the country.
That’s according to a survey by Men’s Health magazine, which ranked Orlando at No. 7 among the top ten Most Socially Networked City.
“Our money was on Palo Alto,” wrote magazine writer Wanda Lau in her article “Twitter Towns, USA.”
“As home to the headquarters of Facebook, Palo Alto might as well be called Zuckerburgh,” she wrote. “But the title instead goes to Washington D.C., a city where staying connected can get out the vote, and virtual handshakes help shape our nation.”
Orlando wasn’t far behind, with only Altanta, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Francisco ranking higher.
It’s a ranking that doesn’t at all surprise Eric Shulman, who said Orlando’s very transient nature helps make it a place where people want to stay connected – with their old friends back in their home state and their new neighbors, co-workers and business connections.
“There’s so many people from so from different areas in Orlando,” said Shulman, a behavior modification specilaist. “It’s a melting pot here.”
Besides, he added, social networking today is an ideal way to reconnect with people you’ve lost contact with because of the physical distance that separates you.
“It’s interesting to catch up with people, and it would be impossible to do that without this tool,” he said.
John DiDonna is an actor and theater director in the Orlando area, who also teaches drama at Rollins College. He agreed that social networking eliminates the problem of people losing contact because they no longer live close to one another.
“The benefits of social networking, if used correctly, are just that – networking,” he said. “It’s a way for people to keep in touch, even at great distances. It’s a fabulous way for all individuals to maintain contact throughout their lifetime. I keep in touch with friends from elementary schools. It’s a great way to maintain that.”
When it came to ranking the cities,Men’s Health calculated the number of Facebook and LinkedIn users per capita, followed by overall Twitter usage, then looked at the traffic generated by the major social networks, including Myspace, Friendster, Reddit, and Digg, while also factoring in the percentage of households that check out chat rooms and blogs. Orlando got ranked an A grade for its social networking.
Shulman operates New Horizons Professional Development Inc. in Maitland, and provides training seminars to sales people and other business professionals. Shulman said Orlando may also rank high because social networking is no longer just about simply reconnecting with old and new friends. It’s also become a vital business tool, he added.
“I do strictly business” on social networking sites, he said. “I have a Facebook page and I Twitter and I have a LinkedIn page. If I want to put out something about one of my classes, I can put it on Facebook. It costs me nothing to do that. I get to share thoughts. I get to plant ideas in people’s heads.”
In fact, Shulman now teaches a course on “Social Media for Sales Professionals,” a three part series that covers the business use of social media. The course is coming up next month, and will include three sessions: “LinkedIn for the Sales Professional” on April 12, “Social Networks: The Big Five to Build On (and then some)” on April 26, and “Profiles, Posts & Updates: How to Engage & Tie it All Together” on May 17.
The course, Shulman said, is a way to attract more clients, gain immediate trust, and create better sales through social networking.
“Sales is a Broadway play put on by a psychiatrist,” he said. “Social networking is not just people doing social stuff. If you do it right, you can do it for business.”
DiDonna said he uses sites like Facebook for professional, educational and social purposes – in that order.
“I use it mostly for business,” he said. “I use it, quite honestly, more than I use email. It’s a quick way to stay in touch with people. I don’t even call it a social networking tool. I call it my portal, because it truly is a portal and a way for people to communicate with me.”
DiDonna noted that he often uses Facebook to start a political discussion – debates that can last for hours as people keep commenting. It’s a great educational tool, he said.
“Even when I vehemently disagree with them, we learn something,” he said.
Shulman said that may be one of the few drawbacks of social networking sites: that people can become almost addicted to the constant electronic chatter happening online, and it draws them away from other forms of interacting with others.
“It’s important to know how to utilize it,” he said. “It can be a time-suck. Social media can be a black hole. You can pour your soul into it all day. You have to be careful.”
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