15 Feb 2010 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Media, Technology

The dawn of professional gossip

Consider Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and (as of last week) Google Buzz. Time-wasters, to be sure. But recently, they’ve become a vital part of participation in many work communities. They’re how people keep up with the important personalities in their field—colleagues, competitors and trendsetters. This use—as an online, social component of business—is new. It is distinct from the more popular uses of social networks, like chatting with friends, posting personal photos, playing games and sharing funny videos. This is about work. We need a name for this.

Professional gossip – Real-time information about people in your field, transmitted through online social networks.

In some ways, gossip should be approached with caution. Things can go negative fast and unexpectedly. (Witness yesterday’s bizarre Twitter fight between Sarah Silverman and Steve Case!) There’s a lot of noise and few good ways to filter it. Often we would be better advised to do the work rather than gab about the work we’re doing.

But on balance, gossip is good. People just starting out in a field can follow a few good feeds and gain insight from experts. Actionable business intelligence spreads fast—and the most important facts spread fastest. No longer must ideas simmer for months before bubbling up through the trade press and conferences; they can can be defined, refined and debated as urgently as necessary. And, conveniently, social networks let you curate your own professional gossip channel. This gives you power to influence what other people in your work community are talking about. Given time to build up contacts and clout, you can set the agenda and shape how your peers perceive your business.

We’re all new at this. We’re going to discover some weird things as we blaze this trail. Let’s make it fun!