Thursday, February 24, 2011

Social Media Makes Networking More Difficult

Before social media networking was hard. People struggled to make meaningful connections, and often looked in awe at a select few who seemed to have the powerful connections that lead to business opportunities. In any industry "fame" and "celebrity" rested with a few who congregated at the top.  Others looked in with their noses pressed against the glass.

Was it family connections, the right college, or just a stellar outgoing personality that gave some folks the advantage in the game of interpersonal relationships?  No matter, they had the power of business relationship and they kept it to themselves.

Then came online social networking.  The Internet was thought to democratize the ability to connect.  The power was shifted to the people.  Anyone with high speed access could play.  The early adopters who had not done well at networking cheered.  Gone was the need to spend time talking to strangers at some industry happy hour, hoping to establish something meaningful.

Instead you could link freely.  People from all walks of life were equalized and excited to make the connections.  Friend requests were granted, and the world was new.

So why is networking still hard?  Why is it even harder to make, grow and keep your business relationships than it was before?

Why is there so much social media overload and the lack of meaningful opportunities being shared with the masses.  Again, many are on the outside looking in as a few garner all the attention.  The players have changed, but there is still those who are in the club, and those who are on the outside.  Why when so much has changed has so much remained the same?

The answer is that networking has not changed.  The tools we use to communicate are new, but people are basically the same.  The old adage that people want to do business with those they know, like and trust remains in tact.

However, the definition of the word "KNOW" has changed in our society.  The ease of finding out basic information about each other has become simple.  To "know" someone now only seems to take a Google Search or a visit to a LinkedIn profile.  "Know" used to involve effort, and with that effort came understanding and intimacy.  Along the route to getting to know somebody we discovered if the "liked" and "trusted" them.  Now we never get that far.

Networking is harder because people falsely believed we could take shortcuts to friendships.  But people still only care for you when they decide they care... and once a mutually beneficial relationship is established.  A "Facebook Friend" is not really a "friend", but instead just the name that Mark Zuckerberg attached to a digital link.

With so much noise we now have to work even more to get the attention of others and establish connections.  People are flocking back to industry conferences, Chambers of Commerce meetings and face-to-face lunches and coffee chats. 

You would claim that the Austin, Texas phonebook (yes, they still do print phonebooks) is the equivalent of your network ("Look mom, I have 1.2 million people in my network... I have all their phone numbers and could call anyone of them at any time!"). Strangers, friends-of-friends, celebrities, and others whom you do not actually know are not really your business or personal connections.  If you do not want to look back one day and discover that your social media contacts are leaving you outside looking in, then you need to put in the effort to get to know some of them in real life.

It takes work to establish and cultivate human to human relationships.  Friendships are not based on clicks of the mouse but on clinks of the glasses.  Spending time with people and making memories is key.  People are experiential beings, and when we share our lives together we create bonds.

Networking is never about the number of contacts you have or how you store the information database.  It is always about the establishment of long-term and mutually beneficial relationships between two or more people where all involved find more success because of the connections than they would have without the connections.  Simple, and forever true.

I am sorry that networking is hard.  It is only getting more difficult. But the longer you wait to invest in people, the longer it will take you to create the network that will lead to new opportunities.  We tried to invent shortcuts to meaningful relationships, but there is no app for that!

Have A Great Day

thom singer


Nancy Reece said...

Great insights. Whether face to face or on line, we still need to build trust, build credibility and eliminate risk.

Mary Pat said...

Amen. I cannot keep up with all the things people say on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I have stopped paying attention to all of it. said...

Great insight! I couldn't agree more. Social media should only be an adjunct to personal interactions, which is more genuine. But social media is beneficial in some cases like in business and long distance interactions.