[Note from Deb - I wrote my "rant" post last Thursday eve. and had it programmed to automatically publish at 6:00 a.m. Friday. Late Friday morning the Universe had the last laugh on me when I checked my email and found an invitation to LinkedIn from Make It Great Phil. He hadn't seen my post yet. Later that day I read an article on online social networking written by a cynic like me who ended up being a convert. Two synchronistic events that made me take note. Phil graciously agreed to write an article to help me become better informed, and it now follows, with my humble gratitude]:
Online networks can be great...if you use them and don't let them use you. When I read Deb's article about online social networking, I hoped I could convince her that online networking CAN be great...if they're used the right way.
Just like offline networking for networking's sake can be a huge waste of time, so can online networking. So I thought I'd share a list of things I've found that make online networking work for me. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments as well.
5 Ways Online Networks Can Be Great!
1) Don't connect just to add to your network. Though admittedly I have a ton of contacts in my LinkedIn profile, they are there so the folks I am connected to can look and see who I know that might help them. They are not there for me to show off or flex like a muscle. Use your network similarly, and add to your network only those you feel can help you...or that you can help.
2) Only connect to folks you trust. If they are online or offline friends, if you don't trust someone, don't connect with them. You don't have to click the dreaded "I don't know you" button, but a personal note back that says "I don't know you well enough to let you into my network yet" will be appreciated.
3) Know why you are connecting. Are you connecting with someone for your gain or to help someone else? Either is acceptable, but pick one and be honest about it when you are asking to connect with someone.
4) Focus on a few, and don't feel like you have to do them all. I am on Facebook, MySpace, am part of several groups on Ning, I love LinkedIn, and I'm currently playing with FriendFeed. There are hundreds of other social networking sites out there. I focus most of my energy on LinkedIn, with a few worthwhile groups in Ning. And I'm okay with that. I don't obsess about waiting a week or two to connect to people on Facebook. I don't add more apps to my profile anymore. And if folks really want to reach me, they can always e-mail me. E-mail always gets my attention. And I tell people that if they send me notes via any social networking service.
5) Make it personal. If you're trying to connect to someone, make it personal. Don't invite everyone in your network at the same time, with the same form letter. Personalize it by adding your personality. If you're in a hurry, batch your invites by friend type, and personalize it once for everyone. I do this with my online friends, my offline friends, my work friends, and my other friends.
And 1 more for good measure...
6) Ask for help if you don't know what you're doing. Though I seldom use it, my MySpace profile got fixed up by a friend of mine who "gets" MySpace. When I first got started with LinkedIn, I had another friend give me a tour. Want a better LinkedIn profile? Check out Guy Kawasaki's advice.
Phil Gerbyshak works with organizations and individuals to create and deepen relationships for increased profitability and increased employee engagement. To read some of Phil's musings, check out http://makeitgreat.typepad.com or view his management ramblings at http://slackermanager.com