Nov 28, 2007

The REAL Value of Online Networking

I've been using social networks in an avid way since about 1997. The first site to intice me to use a social network for business was Ryze. Ryze was really booming in San Francisco in 2002, then sort of tuckered out, although every now and again I find someone new getting active there. I was involved during the year that we had these cool business mixers, followed by a party. I was into that. Some business people were turned off by the alcohol, the loud music, and such, but I thought it was all part of the fun. I met several of my best friends through the Ryze mixers in San Francisco.

You'll notice that I'm not talking about the online activity nearly as much as the FACE-TO-FACE activity that resulted out of Ryze. Because, that is truly the value of an online network: it leads you to face-to-face networking.

FACT: The best online networks increase your face-to-face networks.

So, look for this in your network.

In fact, now that I think about it, AOL chat rooms that were popular in the late 1990's were about this, too. You'd connect online, then meet in person. I'm sure most who read this will remember the movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan called You've Got Mail, which introduced the concept of online dating to the masses. Again, they met online, but then took it into real life. That's the way a good social network ought to function. I met a former band-mate, Dino, through those AOL Chat rooms. I also got connected with American Cancer Society events, and met a few other people, too.

A couple of years ago, I built a profile on LinkedIn. But I didn't push it, because I felt it a bit limiting. And, here is where I must lament the value of LinkedIn versus my latest craze: Plaxo. The problem with LinkedIn, in my opinion, is that the system is too closed. I can only email. I don't see a full stream of what people are doing, and it is difficult to navigate. Also, I can't even email half the people without having to pay $30/month fees (or higher). That can get costly. Is LinkedIn worth my cable bill? Frankly, I'm not sure. Since LinkedIn displays your career time line like an online resume, I'd say it is great for recruiters. For everyone else, it's mostly a time-suck. Yes, I use it, but I'm not nearly as active as when I first joined. When I use LinkedIn now, I always include my phone number and invite a call. I just want my connections to be real life connections.

Better online networking:

Now, on the contrary, the new Plaxo, with their Pulse streams, have made it easier to network, view your contact's phone number, email, websites, and so forth. If I want their resume, I can always ask for it. Five people in the last week have called me from my Plaxo networks, in desire to KNOW me. That rocks. Yes, Plaxo sucks time, too. But, the difference is that I'm building a vast global network of people interested in the same things I want to build through my groups function. Not only that, but because I moderate the group, I can control postings. If people get off-topic, their post is deleted. Repeat violators are tossed from my group. I know: I'm harsh. But I hate SPAM. The groups are great, though, because you can connect with like-minded people.

Spam in online networking is a problem, but I get surprised when people report my AspireNow newsletter as SPAM. Why would they do that? After all, they have to double-opt-in to join! This simple fact alone means that my emails are SPAM compliant, not to mention that I run them through Constant Contact, which also enables me to follow the rules. People are so touchy about SPAM - but with good reason. REAL SPAM, is the type where people post to every group a feed about their MLM (Multi-level marketing business), or some other venture, that often appears totally unrelated to the group(s) they posted into. At Plaxo, I detest SPAM, and will quickly rebuke those who violate it in my groups. At the same time, this doesn't negate the power of the group.

An example of online networking results:

For example, this morning I met three new people who are interested in my latest programs, and I would not have met these people had I not been active in Plaxo.

Another example of the power of Internet networking, is how people have involved me in their technology. Today, somone posted an inquiry in my group. I read the post. At first, I thought it had nothing to do with Advanced Collaboration, then I realized it had EVERYTHING to do with Advanced Collaboration. Since I'm building a software program under the veil of, I'm deeply interested in posts like the Wikinomics: the future of social networking.

If you're seeking ways to boost your own social networking, check out Plaxo, and also drive your network back into real-time. No, they're not paying me to plug them. I just like their site. But take the online networking into the real world. Pick up a phone, call the person. Schedule a meeting if you live close to each other. That way, you'll really reap the value of your online networks.

Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions.

ARRiiVE Business Solutions helps executives improve sales, launch products and services, and build dynamic, cross-functional collaborative teams. For more information, contact info (at)ARRiiVE (dot) com or call us at 1 (805) 459-6939.

Copyright © 2007 by ARRiiVE Business Solutions. All Rights Reserved. You may republish this article only if you publish in WHOLE with the COPYRIGHT and ALL ACTIVE LINKS intact.

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