As you expand your personal and business network, you will inevitably decide whether you are more interested in casting a wide net or building in-depth relationships with fewer people. The two strategies are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I suggest that you do both simultaneously. Social media allows us to literally build a world-wide network if we choose to do so. However, sites such as Twitter might allow us to have thousands of “followers” but we might not really know our followers at all. At the other end of the breadth/depth continuum lies the strategy of getting to know fewer people deeply and to have significant face-to-face contact with them. For example, how many groups do you join and how much time do you spend on each of them?
The two approaches are complementary. For example, many organizations have chapters. You might belong to one chapter and attend the monthly (or weekly) meetings on a regular basis. By only attending your home chapter, you meet a limited number of people. If the organization allows you to attend other chapters as a guest, you can expand your network and meet many more people. You might not get to know all of these additional contacts very well, but you can “go deeper” over time.
I recommend a kind of happy medium, wherein you get to know a certain number of people more intimately, but also continue to expand your network beyond that. Ultimately you have to make certain choices and make referrals and introductions to people that you know, like and trust. Loyalty is important, and you shouldn’t let the broad network preclude sharing business contacts with people with proven records. The decision about whether to primarily establish a deep or wide network will depend on the nature of your business and the amount of time you allot to in-person networking and social media. What is your strategy and is it working for you? What is your position on the breadth/depth spectrum?
Is texting just the latest fad that will go the way of pagers (remember them), MySpace, and PDAs? I am genuinely interested in why and how texting became such the preferred way of communicating, especially among the millennial generation, but also for other generations. Let’s go back a number of years to say, 1983, before anyone knew what the internet was, and virtually no one had a portable phone. Doctors and salespeople were just beginning to use pagers, then called “beepers.” Car phones, big bulky devices, were beginning to be installed on the floor boards of cars. If hospitals (or sales managers) wanted to get in touch with people urgently, they used the pager, and the person would go to a pay phone (remember them?) to return that urgent page. Answer machines were actual machines where we could hear the message of the person calling (as it was being recorded) from another room in our house. This was before the concept of “voicemail.” So we had pagers, car phones, and primitive answer machines.
The internet intervened in our lives in a big way in the 90s, and really not much before that. I was so excited to get an account with American Online, and instead of using my entire last name Saleebey, which wasn’t taken, I chose firstname.lastname@example.org, which I have kept until now, much to the chagrin of my gmail counterparts. Social media began to emerge with sites like Friendster and MySpace, but it was mostly for the younger generation. How did we communicate with the home office? Facsimile, or fax as it came to be known. “Fax it to me” became the business mantra of choice. As e-mail began to take over and become ubiquitous, more businesses asked us to “e-mail it to me.” I remember thinking that e-mail was just a passing fad.
Many things have intervened, some of them just fads and some of them have become a part of how we live our lives. I am currently writing a “blog post,” which didn’t exist as such just a few years ago. I get e-mail constantly, use a laptop computer, a smart phone, and have come closer and closer to my limit of 200 text messages a month. As a 63 year old man, I am neither a Luddite or a technology trend setter, but somewhere in between. I actually got an IPhone because my last device wouldn’t receive text messages without a hassle. I notice the transition from calling someone when you are running late to texting them. I really don’t believe texting at that point is fundamentally better or even quicker. I am a big believer in fads and trends, and that they all pass at some point. For example, markets now have self check-out, but they often have market employees doing all of the work for you, so it’s not really self check-out at all.
There always seems to be someone on the cutting edge, or the supposed cutting edge, telling us we have to get a Betamax machine, subscribe to Home Box Office (that’s HBO in case you forgot), join Friendster, or join Netflix. By the time I get around to some of those things, they have been replaced by something quicker, sleeker, or trendier. I have begun to text more, but at times I feel it is just as efficient to make a phone call, especially when I want a dialogue or clarification without a lot of back and forth. Besides, it is downright dangerous to text while driving.
My concerns center around that fact that as a society, we tend to embrace the latest technological advance, regardless of the benefits of more traditional modes of communication. A phone call still serves a purpose, though texting may be quicker and mitigate the need to actually have a conversation with human voices. I am not opposed to texting or anything that might come after it. What concerns me is the blind embracing of the new technologies, without considering that a more “primitive” channel of communication might work just as well. Some people seem to be using text messaging to prove how modern they are, regardless of the appropriateness of it. As a baby boomer, I can observe members of my generation almost equally divided among those who embrace new technologies, and those who eschew any and all of them. Some people are kind of caught in the middle, like when we call someone on the phone, hoping for voicemail so we don’t have to actually talk to them. I’m certain that next year (or next month for that matter) some new form of communication will emerge as the preferred or hippest method, and many will rush to use it. As for me, you can call me, e-mail me, send me a message through FB or LinkedIn. I will try to check all of them every minute, so I never miss anything. Or I might just move to a tropical island like I did in 1976 and hide from everyone for a year.
What about you? Are you just infatuated with texting, or do you really believe that it is the most efficient way to get your message across to others?
I was first introduced to LinkedIn several years ago by my son Billy. He said, “You have to join LinkedIn.” With some prompting and good old fashioned logic, he convinced me that LinkedIn was the wave of the future, a free online advertisement, and a conduit to everyone on the planet. So I joined, and did so with gusto, amassing many connections, some of whom I knew only peripherally. Today, 1703 connections (and counting) and 65 recommendations later, I am considered an expert on LinkedIn. I know many, though not all, aspects of this premier business networking site. I continue to invite people to be a connection, and accept invitations of others on a daily basis. What then are the basics of using LinkedIn?
First of all, you must sign up. Then you need to write a Profile as detailed and comprehensive as possible. Take the time to make sure you have included all relevant work and educational experience in your profile. You must upload a professional picture. This is critical. Once you are satisfied with your profile and picture, it is time to start compiling your connections. I recommend that you invite anyone who you know in business, friends, relatives, and significant people in your life. My philosophy is “the more the merrier.” The more connections you have, the more opportunity to build a truly wide social media network. The six degrees of separation principle is in effect here. You don’t really know who the people you know are acquainted with. This factor can be utilized when you want to be introduced to someone who knows someone you know.
As you begin building your online network, it is useful to read about your connections so that you have more to talk to them about. For example, if you have meeting with someone (connection or not) you can peruse their profile and find out about their employment, educational and personal background. This can be invaluable in your initial discussions. It is more and more common in business for people to do online research on potential business partners.
Another key component of your LinkedIn page is Recommendations. Ask for recommendations from people with whom you have done business. Another useful tactic is to write a recommendation for some of your contacts. As you gain new connections, continue to seek and give recommendations.
LinkedIn can be used to do research on people to determine their suitability. You can also use the Search function to find people, as most business people are now on LinkedIn. You can even find people who work at a specific company. For example, if I want to meet an attorney at a particular firm, I can search to see if I know anyone who works at that firm. With 1703 connections, I probably do.
You can join groups (there are hundreds of them), form groups, and have discussions and dialogues. Ultimately, LinkedIn is about an interaction and engagement of others. You can share your blogs (I am going to share this one), respond to others’ postings, and regularly post updates about your business activities. It is not enough to join LinkedIn, you have to be active in it.
You will determine your level of participation in LinkedIn depending on your needs and available time. If you are in business development or recruiting, it is an outstanding tool. But like any tool, it is only as good as your judicious and consistent use of it. I will be doing a number of presentations on using LinkedIn. Stay tuned.
I was first introduced to LinkedIn several years ago by my son, who told me that “I had to join LinkedIn.” I wasn’t sure why I had to join, but I took his advice, wrote my profile, uploaded a picture, and began building my online network by adding connections. I really had no idea where any of these activities would lead me, but I was having fun expanding my virtual network. Over time I became a bit of an expert on LinkedIn, and colleagues would ask me how to use it effectively. From my experience, the starting point is to write a detailed and comprehensive profile, including education and work experience. It is worth spending time to include the most relevant aspects of your career in the profile. It is also important to upload a professional photo and to include peripheral information like links to your blog and other social media sites.
After you have completed your profile (and proofread it), you should then begin inviting anyone and everyone with whom you have a business relationship. This should include people you know to some degree. You don’t need to know them well to invite them to be a connection. Additionally, when someone invites you who you know, accept their invitation and read their profile and list of connections. So you have written a great profile, uploaded a flattering picture of yourself, and begun to build your professional online network.
The next step is to begin to post updates of your professional activities: deals, honors, speaking engagements, publications. Spread the word about your business updates. Include web sites when relevant. LinkedIn will serve as a vehicle to promote your business, and without any cost except your time. If done properly, you can get information out on a regular basis about everything you are doing. Don’t be shy about providing these updates.
Another step is to begin seeking recommendations from connections with whom you have worked: clients, business associates, colleagues. You will also be able to reciprocate and provide others with recommendations on their work. These recommendations will then be posted on your LinkedIn profile. You should also join groups that are related to your field of expertise and education. Depending on the amount of time you have to devote to LinkedIn, you can join in discussions with other members of the groups, make announcements of upcoming events, and pose questions for group members. Ultimately, LinkedIn and other forms of social media are ways to engage and dialogue with members of your online network. Social media is not passive, but a vehicle to engage in virtual communication with others 24/7 and around the world.
You also need to periodically update your profile and continue to invite people to join your network. Read the comments of your various groups, and weigh in when appropriate. The more connections you have and the more active you are, the more value you will derive from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the premier business social networking site, and has become increasingly important in the process of business development. It should be an integral part of anyone’s social media campaign.
The concept of business networking is changing as rapidly as every new development in social media. Self-styled experts are telling us to tweet, to post, to update, to blog, while traditionalists are insisting that there is no substitution for face-to-face, belly-to-belly old school schmoozing. While some are quick to embrace every new social media fad and channel, others wisely adopt the solid aspects of social media, while continuing to talk to others in person and on the phone. We have more choices than ever about how to build relationships and develop business through the networking process. It takes a discerning approach to utilize all of the options in an optimal manner. For example, we are able to easily find out about people in advance of meetings through Google or LinkedIn. However, this pre-knowledge is not enough. We still need to meet people in the moment and be open to them as they express themselves. Just because we can find out a lot about others in advance doesn’t mean we always should do so. In fact, some people might resent or be suspicious of people who seem to know too much about them. Additionally we might make incorrect assumptions about others based on where they worked or where they went to school.
Social media allows us to “network” in front of a computer screen or on our smart phone. We can certianly enhance the effects of in person meetings by a judicious use of social media. Some people will truly be impressed with us for “doing our homework.” However, a dependence or over emphasis on social media can backfire. You might decide to send a Tweet about a meeting you had with “Bob”, but “Bob” might not have wanted that meeting to be broadcast over the internet. I suggest using social media as an enhancement of the overall networking process, not the centerpiece. If you have a pleasing personality, you are missing out by not meeting others in person. Conversely, it is short-sighted to eschew social media because you don’t know how to navigate it. Ultimately it is the confluence of face-to-face networking and social media that will yield the best overall results.
There have been and will continue to be monumental advances and changes in the way people connect. No one really knows exactly how the business world will look in five or ten years in terms of how people interact with one another. Take a look at business cards of 20 years ago. Almost all of them had physical addresses on them and few of them had e-mail addresses on them. Today almost every business has a web site, and most progressive businesses use that web site as a integral part of doing business. The other day I exchanged cards with one of my competitors, and was astonished that his card did not have his e-mail address on it. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to be successful in business, but you have to at least have an e-mail address so people can get in touch with you.
The real key is balance, and the realization that you have to use various channels in order to connect effectively with a variety of people. More importantly, you have to be flexible and determine which channel they have tuned in, so you can reach them. Be open to change while continuing to use more traditional approaches that still yield positive results.
I started using LinkedIn several years ago at the suggestion of my son, with no profile, no connections, no status updates and no recommendations. Over 1,700 connections, 50 recommendations, and countless updates later, I have come to use LinkedIn for several key benefits. First of all, LinkedIn allows me to find out about people with whom I am meeting or intend to contact. I can learn where they went to school, something about their career path, and other pertinent data. This can be extremely beneficial as a research tool and being informed in advance about the person and their company. Another benefit is getting introductions based on second level connections. Let’s say I want to meet the Administrator at a major law firm, and don’t know where to begin. I simply search the law firm and will immediately see everyone from that firm who is on LinkedIn. I then look for anyone I am connected (1st Level) who might know that person. The more connections I have, the higher the probability that I will have some type of connection to the firm. If I know my connection well enough, I can send a LinkedIn message and ask if they will make the introduction. It’s very powerful, and that power increases with the number of connections. The most fundamental tactics of LinkedIn are t0 write a detailed profile and make a lot of connections.
Another great benefit of LinkedIn is writing updates of your activities and posting articles or blog posts you have written. This can dramatically increase the traffic to your blog or web site. I suggest posting on a regular basis. Make your posts valuable to others, and not merely what you are doing. Information, articles, and humor will all attract attention. There is little doubt that LinkedIn is the premier business social media tool today. It should be used in concert with Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and other medium to improve your SEO. Be aware that the true value of social media inheres in the engagement of others. Respond in a meaningful way to what others in your “groups” post. Be active, continue to increase your connections, learn about them, and engage them on a consistent basis. LinkedIn offers great potential to raise your virtual profile in a significant way. But you have to be active and strategic in order to derive the various benefits of the site. Talk to others who have used the site productively to gain insights into other useful tactics that will enhance your visibility.
With the proliferation of social media, some people think that they can build a network with heavy reliance on it alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though social media can be quite useful in expanding your virtual network exponentially, there will never be a substitute for face-to-face contact. Social media is valuable in sharing ideas, updates, information, and other things. However, if you really want to make a deep, memorable impression with others, you must meet them in person and have a real conversation. Face-to-face, or even telephonic communication, allows for personal expression, tone of voice, body language, and a whole range of other emotions to be expressed. Social media, other than visual mediums like You Tube, do not allow such aspects of expression.
When you meet people in person, you are able to engage in verbal and nonverbal communication that make human beings unique. From the first eye contact, to the hand shake or hug, through the entire meeting, your flesh and blood presence imbues meaning that is so often lacking in social media communication. We have all experienced e-mail communications that led to misunderstandings among people. For example, there is someone at my work who persists in writing in all capital letters, not realizing that others perceive him to be SHOUTING. Most of us have hit Send, only to reconsider our words. There is obviously a time and place for the use of the various platforms of social media, especially when expanding our networks beyond our geographical borders. But if you really want to make a deep impression on others, I suggest you show up and meet in person. This is especially true if you are likable and/or pleasant looking. Continue to use social media (as I am doing here), but don’t shy away from the old fashioned cup of coffee or “breaking bread.” The truly successful networkers use a combination of social media and face-to-face contact. You should do the same.
The burgeoning of social media holds a special interest to me as a psychologist and teacher of networking and interpersonal communication skills. Is it virtual or is it real? It is both. Social media allows us to communicate in much wider areas than traditional forms of communication like face-to-face and telephonic communication. For me, it has allowed me to spread my network worldwide in ways that would not have been possible in the past by traditional forms of communication. However, social media can never and will never replace other forms. You cannot hear dialects, voice tones, and you certainly can’t smell another person over the internet. Granted, Skype has brought to fruition the promises and predictions of the futurists. We can actually see the people we are talking to on the phone (er, computer) The limits of traditional communication are things such as time and distance. Social media has no such limits. However, in Facebook for example, there are many inherent possibilities for misreading the communication of others. This is especially of sarcasm or use of idioms. The “wall” is a public place where some choose to expose all manners of messages and psychic “dirty underwear.” I use it for humor and philosophical musings, rarely sharing any of my deeply private or inner feelings.
One major advantage (which could also be seen as a disadvantage) of social media is that is puts you in touch with people who are really marginal or peripheral in your social sphere. Many of my many Facebook “friends” are not friends at all, but perhaps are only business acquaintances or friends of friends. And the notion of “unfriending” a relative is truly bizarre to me. It is great to receive a huge number of birthday wishes, but impossible to respond appropriately to all of them. I have learned much about many through social media, and that is mostly a positive for me because of my profession. But am I really open to others who wear extreme or opposing viewpoints on their profile shoulders? I could find something in common in one person, and feel polarized from another. We know much more about others than we did previously if we truly embrace and get involved in social media.
Social media tends to put us in touch with many more people than previously. With that increase there is an inevitable variation in quality that comes with the quantity. For the curious, social media can be a source of endless delight. But it can be a huge time suck, and extremely addictive. It is currently influencing politics, ideas, and athletics. It is influencing almost everything as it is truly in its stage of unprecedented growth. The question of how much you embrace social media depends on your interests and goals. If you are curious about others, want to expand your virtual and real network, have something to say, want to communicate electronically with others from your present and past, or are trying to expand your business, it can be a great boon. But if you are exceedingly private, want to leave your past behind, and hate electronics, then you should probably stick to the old ways.
My generation of baby boomers is deeply divided on this topic. Some are all over it and using it to its maximum, and others don’t know the first thing about it, and aren’t interested in learning about it. No one really knows where all of this is going. One thing is certain, and that is that things will change, and evolve, but social media in some form or another is here to stay. In addition, there are a large number of people that will never call you on your land line or drop in for a visit without texting you first. And like the true early bird that I am, I will Tweet this blog.
Yesterday I decided it was time to back up my IPhone, because I have so many phone numbers and e-mail addresses stored in it. I had bought a MacBook Pro over the weekend, so decided to back up the phone on the new computer. It seemed simple and harmless enough, and I had my video editor/computer technician Harold here working on my desk top computer. It was a sunny Martin Luther King Day holiday, and I figured Harold would be here, give me a brief tutorial on the laptop, and I could have a restful holiday. But noooooooooooooooo (as John Belushi would say). The back up hit a snag, and before I knew it, my phone was completely empty of any data. Nothing: no phone numbers, no pictures, NO WORDS WITH FRIENDS. I had become addicted to playing that online Scrabble-type game, and was totally dependent on the memorized phone numbers. We tried to retrieve the information from the desktop, and then the phone completely froze up and stopped working. I was extremely upset and concerned, and began preparing myself for the inevitability of re-entering the hundreds of saved phone numbers. Harold made a few calls to the Apple help desk, and we finally decided to copy the data from the last time I saved it on my desk top computer. Finally, after more than 5 hours of working to fix the problem, the data was successfully transferred back to the IPhone. Everything returned from the last time I saved it in November, except Words with Friends.
This event made me realize how much I am dependent on technology. Memorized phone numbers, e-mail address, settings, ring tones, Blue Tooth technology, the whole electronic enchilada. In the back of my mind, I kept saying, “What about Words with Friends?” How I got so addicted to an online word game is beyond my understanding. We are long past the day of memorizing phone numbers, and I know I depend very much on computer memorized e-mails and of course Passwords. We must never forget not only that computers are NOT humans or substitutes for humans, but rather complex and sometimes enigmatic machines that have come to virtually dominate our lives. Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Apple, clones, operating systems, and all the rest. If I think of anything else on this topic, I promise to text you the information, if I don’t blog about it first. But I can’t remember my damn password.
Networking, or building relationships over time to assist others and yourself, is often misunderstood. One of the reasons for the misunderstanding is that people assume you can networking effectively without entering the personal dimension. People who stick to business are missing the point and a key step in the process. You have to make a meaningful personal connection with others in order for them to know you, like you, and ultimately refer you to others. It is also a balance between speaking and listening, being genuinely interested in others and interesting to them. Some people are great listeners and interested in others, but not that interesting themselves. Others are interesting people, but have no interest in the world of others. Effective networking takes time. It is much more than collecting a handful of business cards at a mixer. You have to build relationships through repeated and varied contacts over time. People have to know you, like you, know what you do, trust you, and be motivated to refer you to others. Often a networking group actively encourages, and even requires referrals for continued membership in the group.
Networking is hot, especially in today’s job market. Success surely is coming to those who have “paid their dues” in the networking world. The givers, those who get involved, and those who show up on a continuous basis are deriving the most benefits. Social media, such as blogs like this, along with face-to-face contact yield the best results. Either by themselves is not sufficient. You have to engage in a dialogue with others, whether it is through an actual conversation over a cup of coffee or meal, at a meeting, or through electronic media. You should continue to network even after your “pipeline” is full and you seem to have a secure job or enough business. You go shopping for food before you are starving. In the same way, you need to build your network before you need it. Make connections, serve as a conduit between people you know, and always look for ways to help others. If you do all of these things, referrals will come to you in abundance. And if you need to look for work, you simply need to tap your existing network of family, friends, and associates.