Thursday, April 07, 2005

Network Memberships - Evaluating?

On another network, David Fuller, reviewed his experience using business/social networks. He called his article, "My Networking Subscriptions are about to run out, so do I renew for another year?"

Mr Fuller recommends that to evaluate your networking experience you "Determine what you are trying to achieve" and measure the value of networking against that vision. He says we should measure the return against the budget, thinking about both the cost of money and the cost of time. Finally he asks if the site you are on gives you a chance to "stand out from the crowd", suggesting that we should take every opportunity to present our "elevator pitch".

You can read his full article here, but I disagree with most of what he says, he is uninformed and unhelpful.

It's quite clear that David Fuller doesn't understand the basics of networking practice. I don't blame him for that. Networking online is new, we do have access to many more people, but we don't have personal capacity to keep in memory and consciousness any more people than previously. Those of us who are deeply connected on Ryze, Linked In or Ecademy for instance, have not yet learned for ourselves how best to use this new ability to connect. It should not surprise us that people who are less connected don't understand the process.

David Fuller assumes you can determine in advance what you want to achieve by networking and can measure the cost performance of your involvement. He's wrong. That can't be done in any sensible way. Networking is a journey. You are going into unmapped territory. NO MAPS. Now tell me what you want to find in this unmapped territory that would make your exploration a success? The discovery of gold, oil, slaves, free land, virgin forests, new opportunity? In history when explorers have entered new territory, they often failed to find the "riches" they expected to find, and also completely failed to notice real wealth that existed in this unmapped territory that was beyond their original narrow vision.

Joining a network is taking a journey into unmapped territory. A "friends" list is a rough sort of map that each of us makes of that territory. Joining networks is another way to make a rough map of what's there. But you can't beat living there for a couple of years to sort out which of the "friends" are people of substance, and which networks are sources of both good people and sound data.

If you come to networking like Christopher Columbus, with "orders from the Queen of Spain", determined to establish yourself as the "Governor" and focused on becoming fabulously wealthy, you are likely to get a rather cold reception from the natives. Self engrandizement, elevator pitches, trying to make yourself out to be the "Governor" is the wrong response to the network environment.

In a network, in fact in all of life, nothing is more important that your ability to be accepted as a member. If you are a member, people listen to you. If you are a member you are given good data and help when you need it. If you are a member your rights as a member will be protected and respected by others. If you are a member you pay attention to what other "members" say and do and you respect and protect their rights as members.

So what do I mean by "membership"? There are at least two forms of membership. Let's think about Ryze Networks. (Or Ryze if you prefer) You join, when you subscribe to the network. In one sense "you are a member of this network" but you are not a member to the "members", they don't know you yet. You become a member by reading the posts and by occasionally responding to what someone else has written in a sensible way (so people feel that you have read the posts and that you respond in a way that "fits in".). You need to show knowledge of and respect for the "member" you responding to. When people read what you wrote, they choose, they choose either to accept you or to reject you. If they accept you, your posts will be read, and your opinion listened to. If they decide you didn't understand the group, or didn't show respect for a "member" you might get a lashing, but more likely you'll just get ignored. If they choose to ignore you, it's probably your own fault.

How do you succeed in a networking situation? Listen to what other people are saying. Respond to their needs and interests. Be supportive or other members, and you might become a "member" yourself.

David Fuller doesn't seem to understand the simple social rules that apply to all networks. When he introduces his "elevator pitch" to make sure he "stands out from the crowd" he poisons the place where he's trying to become accepted. The "members" will reject him. It's the same online of offline. Offline, people are less likely to make silly social mistakes. Online you see new people commit social errors all the time. In this sense, the vast numbers of people who sit silently on networks might be doing the right thing. At least if they are reading the posts that is a wise way to behave.

I trust this view introduces some ideas we can discuss. Like how to give newbies on Ryze a better idea of what they need to do in social networks, and how we can help the silent majorities on all our networks to be more involved.

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