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Real Social Networking

As some of you know, I am not the biggest fan of Social Networks.  To me, it seems like a lot of the social networking that goes on is like New Year’s Eve, a time of forced frivolity.  Now, I love New Year’s Eve, but only because it is my daughter’s birthday.

Yes, I know that social networking is a lot of things.  Facebook and Twitter are certainly the types of things that I just don’t get.  Why would I be posting all of my personal thoughts and what I am doing for the world to see and comment on?  Perhaps it is just my age. With all of the social networks out there, how does one really benefit?  I think I have been invited to 4 different Ning groups.  Realistically how does one find the time to actively participate and get value from each? I have a profile on LinkedIn and have seen limited benefit from it.  Lots of people have profiles (like me), but not a whole lot really gets accomplished using the tool.

Blogging seems to work for me.  It gives me a chance to more fully flesh out the ideas that I have and put them down in writing.  The very task of writing makes me provide a (sometimes :)) coherent narrative that I hope is helpful to my loyal readers. But I understand that blogging is mostly a one way communication unless my readers choose to comment directly in the blog.

The most fun that I have is Real Social Networking, as compared with the garden variety social networking talked about above.  Please note that I am not talking about the business networking events that in Chicago tends to be passing business cards around, lying about the success of your business, trolling for customers (or a new job) and drinking adult beverages.  Real Social Networking involves the introducing of people in my network to each other to help solve a business (or personal) problem.  In order to do this to the best effect, you must really understand what each person in your network is about.  Where they went to school, what their politics are, what do they do better than anyone you know, what are their blind spots – you get the picture. You can’t do that when you are amassing “friends” in order to beat Ashton Kutcher’s record on Facebook.  It is hard to do that when you converse with people 140 characters at a time.

My social network is not that large compared to a lot of folks on Facebook. No matter.  I know that if I call on my friends in the network to help another, they will.  If they ask me to help one of their friends because I have certain skills that are needed, I will do so in a heartbeat.

In the past several weeks, I have been involved with 5 or 6 projects that have involved my network.  In some cases, friends have asked that I provide counsel on a project.  In other cases, I have introduced friends to other friends who can help solve an issue.  In another case, I convened a group of friends to brainstorm potential business models for a friend’s fledgling venture. I have introduced angel investors to companies.  I have provided referrals to other friends.  This is the value of real social networking.

If you haven’t tried it, I recommend that you start.  Start small.  Invite someone that you have been introduced to, but don’t know well to coffee.  Ask them what they are most proud of.  Ask them what they do better than most people.  Ask them what they are scared of.  Share your stories. And then ask them, How can I help? You may be able to help right away either directly or through your network.  But even if you can’t, you will have started to build the network.  That is a key asset that is much more than having 5000 friends on Facebook.

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