It used to be that if you wanted access to someone, you were limited to meeting face-to-face. You might also have sent them written correspondence with the hope of a response. Some time later, we began accessing people via telephone. Later still, we began using email. And each of these methods of accessing people still work today. However, when compared to social web technologies, in many ways, they are greatly limited.
Due to the constraints of physical travel, the number of people that you can actually meet face-to-face is limited to those people with whom you have the strongest relationships. Family members, friends, colleagues and clients. In very limited instances, you may be able to meet new people by attending community events, professional association meetings and other group meetings. But still, the number of these that you can attend in any given time period is rather limited, when compared to those that you can access via non-face-to-face communication media.
Written correspondence is a bit better, but it’s greatly limited in terms of speed in which the message travels. Write and mail a letter, it might take a whole week to be received. Write an email, it can be received in seconds or minutes.
Which is one of the reasons why email is so heavily relied upon for communication. However, because it has become one of the primary means of communication, it’s effectiveness for accessing people has been greatly diminished. Many people have a daily deluge of emails which force them to prioritize, and unfortunately, ignore many emails that they receive. Hence, accessing someone via email has become much more difficult.
Compare these to accessing people via web-based social tools.
They’re not limited by physical travel issues. There’s an inherent expectation that the communications will be concise. They’re fast. And when used properly, they allow for very easy filtering (i.e. Twitter lists).
Give it a try sometime. Think about someone that you see occasionally at a professional networking event. Try to get a hold of them by phone for a friendly conversation. Try them via email. Then try them through facebook, linkedin or twitter.
In terms of accessing people, online social tools are tough to beat.