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Click to EnlargePete Singer

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr. The use of these and other social networking is exploding, and no one is paying more attention than publishing companies and editors. The prevailing wisdom at press time (it will probably change by the time you read this) is that people are increasingly relying on their social networks for their daily dose of news, and less on traditional print and digital media.

I have personally found LinkedIn to be the best networking site for business, and I have also seen the value in Twitter. Many of the people I follow bring things to my attention that I would not have otherwise seen, with nothing more than a headline and a link. I try to do the same (follow me if you'd like at I, unfortunately, share the same name (no relation) as a Princeton professor who is renowned for his highly controversial views. You can find me on LinkedIn and Facebook by searching "Pete Singer Pennwell."

Facebook for business is a relatively new phenomenon. The big question is whether a high tech industry, such as the semiconductor industry, is ready for it. To that end, I posted a simple question on a popular semiconductor LinkedIn group sites: "We just started a Facebook page for Solid State Technology. What do you think? Here's the link if you'd like to become a fan:

Keeping in mind that this is a LinkedIn group; the responses where overwhelmingly anti-Facebook. "Personally, I try to keep my work and social lives segregated—LinkedIn for work/professional activities and Facebook for non-work/social. I know a few others that attempt to do the same... so, I would vote for LinkedIn groups first," was the first response.

An engineer at Intel followed: "Facebook is useless, unless you want to know that your distant acquaintance had pasta for dinner... Eeeew, gross!" A professor chimed in: "Very bad idea. Not the right place for any discussions on SST. Just add a new group here and exclude who you do not want." An analyst piled it on: "Facebook is a waste of time for professional dialog. The Linked In groups are working quite well and geared to the professional people anyway. Twitter is also a waste of time but some people are finding it helpful."

Sensing the pack mentality kicking in, I chimed in with this: "Thanks for the comments. I agree, Facebook has so far been family oriented, with LinkedIn the place for business. But increasingly, businesses and brands are creating Facebook pages, which I think might serve well as a way to informally educate people about the business and recent activities."

One example is Samsung:

One group member's response to that was: "It is quality not quantity of the material that I deem most important for professional users. I now notice the LinkedIn boards (e.g., SPIE) are getting spammed. If one can find a way to differentiate the fluff from the ‘true' content, this would be much better: ‘informal' versus ‘formal/professional.' Otherwise, it becomes a waste of time."

Hmmm. That's what we've been doing with our Web site, magazine and newsletters, but to do that in a social networking environment—without the spam—just might be the trick.

A marketing communications expert (and friend) weighed in with good advice: "Facebook is okay for broad consumer magazines where folks are sharing travel tips and recipes, making it a social tool at best, but not a professional one. I agree with the other comments above. I do use Twitter and like it for business use."

My favorite comment, though, was sent to me privately, I suppose so as not to be cast out by the group: "I just want to share that Facebook may not seem as good or professional networking as Linkedin, but it can be effective to reach your audience, too. Many social media users do not just use only one community for networking. I like your idea! Thanks!"

So, the experiment in social networking begins. We now have Facebook pages for all the brands on, the PennWell Web portal for electronics manufacturing: Solid State Technology, Photovoltaics World, Small Times, Advanced Packaging and SMT. Scroll down to the bottom and become a fan, if you'd like. Send me suggestions.

Everyone is walking around, eyes on their mobile phone, uploading photos and videos. A new app on the iphone allows you to type while using the built-in camera so that you can actually see where you're going. It's all a great thing for the semiconductor industry in that it can only increase the consumption of electronics and the need for greater bandwidth. Will we see a new blend of business with personal commentary on sites such as Facebook? I think we will. We're all human after all, and humans are social beings.

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