You Can Call It A Network…But Does It Really Work?

We’ve all heard it. That infamous phrase. The one that alludes to the worth of your network relative to the value of your knowledge. It borders on being so overused that I cringe even thinking about it.

My own feelings aside, we all know it’s true – it’s not what you know. It’s who you know.

In elementary school it’s about knowing the kid with the best snacks. In middle school, the so-called ‘bad kids.’ In high school, the upperclassman and plastics. College is about sucking up to. . .errrr. . .I mean befriending J those with the connections that could lead to that dream job or ultimate career.

After college it’s about your literal connections. Your followers. Your friends and fans.

With all of these virtual networks built by the onset of our careers, we should be all set. Right?

Wrong!

After the networks are built, they need to be grown. But how does that work? And, does it really happen?

Real Life. Social (Media) Life.

I recently attended the Hartford Business Journal’s Book of Lists party – a real life networking event. While at the networking event, an acquaintance approached my colleagues and me to question why we were speaking to one another. “You already know each other. The point of networking is to talk to people you don’t know,” he said.

I was admittedly a bit miffed by the remark, but after pondering its worth at great lengths, I was led to question whether or not we network effectively in our real or social (media) lives.

Let’s take Twitter. We choose who we follow. They choose whether or not to follow us back. We also have that handy tool to block followers, should we so choose.

On Facebook, we pick our friends and even need their permission to officially befriend them. Nobody is making you accept the invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

We’ve all heard David Meerman Scott speak about the importance of losing control in social media. Yet, in our social networks, we are completely in control. Is it irony? Or a fatal flaw?

Growth – A reality or an ideal

So how do we grow our networks if we are in control of our friends, followers, fans and connections? Or, more accurately, do we, or can we, grow them?

Look at your Twitter feed – do you consistently @ and DM the same people? Are your connections, friends and followers the same in your real and virtual lives?

I have a number of theories on the long-term implications of staying inside your comfort zone and sustaining, rather than growing, your networks. I also have a few thoughts on why it’s important to emphasize the quality of your networks rather than the quantity of its members. But I would rather hear from all of you.

And so, I ask you: Is there an effective and feasible strategy for growing and enhancing the value of your virtual and real-life networks? If you have the golden ticket, please share.

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  • Good post. Good idea to think about getting out of your comfort zone–both during in-person networking situations and the online–and network with those you don't know. Funny, but I think I have an easier time moving out of my comfort zone online. I tend to gravitate towards those I know in real life places. Not always, but your post makes me realize that I do have that tendency. Thanks for making me think about this.

  • Good post. Good idea to think about getting out of your comfort zone–both during in-person networking situations and the online–and network with those you don't know. Funny, but I think I have an easier time moving out of my comfort zone online. I tend to gravitate towards those I know in real life places. Not always, but your post makes me realize that I do have that tendency. Thanks for making me think about this.