With social channels, as with most everything else, you trust folks you know more than those you don't. But here's a funny thing: You can develop pretty close relationships with people via social channels without ever actually meeting them, bonding over your career, a hobby or even an obsessive love for a certain food or clothing line.
Because of this, I think social networks like Facebook and Twitter seem well suited to the kind of networking with peers I've witnessed first hand at many trade shows, with small talk often leading to shared tips about vendors, career prospects and (within reason) business models. In fact, I think growing use of social media presents a threat to the traditional trade show. (I have plenty of company, judging by a story about trade events written by IT Business Edge's Susan Hall.)
Like MiPro Consulting's Jeff Ventura, I'd like to see more CIOs participating in social conversations. As Ventura wrote in a blog post last August:
In terms of technology and how businesses use it, there might be no equal to CIOs speaking candidly about their challenges and solutions. CIO's aren't purely introspective creatures from a business perspective -- some simple re-voicing could do wonders for the tech conversation on Twitter.
CIOs haven't rushed to adopt social channels, though. Despite Twitter's efforts to appeal to business people, including a partnership with LinkedIn, which allows users to simultaneously update their LinkedIn and Twitter statuses, and a new Contributors feature designed to make it easier for companies to manage multiple contributors to a Twitter account, many CIOs have seemingly taken a pass on Twitter. In a silicon.com poll taken in May, three-quarters of CIOs said they weren't using Twitter.
Reasons for avoidance aren't given, but I suspect many technology executives worry they simply don't have enough time for Twitter or won't derive enough value from it for the time they put in. I have to admit, I have this mental debate with myself at least once or twice a week. And unlike many CIOs, my career success (or lack thereof) is much more directly linked to my efforts to promote my blog posts and other communications.
The only way to definitively answer that question, however, is to jump in and try Twitter. Don't assume your time-to-value ratio won't pay off until you actually experiment with it. You can use Twitter's search feature to find people you already know, or some you may not know but have admired from afar. You can also try some of the search methods detailed by Chris Curran in a post on his CIO Dashboard blog. Or benefit from the heavy lifting Curran's done and check out the CIO Twitter Dashboard he maintains on the blog. It currently has some 150 accounts, handily broken out by industry. Curran recently added a CTO Twitter Dashboard.
Network World also just published a list of a dozen CIOs on Twitter. (Make that 11, however, as featured CIO Janet Claggett has protected her tweets.) If you're wondering how CIOs on Twitter squeeze in time for tweeting, it's a safe bet many of them are multitaskers like Jeffrey Brandt, CIO for a Washington, D.C., law firm who also is a father of five, home schooler and pinewood derby enthusiast. (Any one of those would be enough to exhaust me.)
Prolific Twitterer John F. Moore, CIO, CTO and SVP of engineering for systems integrator and consultancy Swimfish, tells me he sees Twitter as "a social, collaborative, learning platform." His goals for Twitter use are "learning from others, sharing his thinking and broadening his thinking." Moore also blogs at Random Thoughts of a Boston-Based CTO. (Talk about a multitasker!)