Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

It’s not who you network connect with, it’s who you actually know and who knows you

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on June 4, 2019

I am in part at least, offering this note as a brief follow-up to a recent posting that I wrote to this blog on social networking strategy, where I focused on better practices for achieving specific goals from your online efforts (see It’s Not Just Who You Network Connect With, It’s How You Network With Them.) And as its title indicates it is objectives and priorities and purpose oriented.

But to round out this opening remark to this posting, I based that posting at least to a significant degree on a particular type of “who to network with” analysis, as developed around the particular individual networking approaches and strategies followed by others who you might try networking with (as outlined by type in a still-earlier posting here: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy.)

• If you want your social networking strategies and the practices that you use in pursuing them to work for you, you need to know how the people who you would network with, think and act there too. You need to know and understand what they would and would not do and what they would and would not favorably respond to when facing the prospects of initiating or continuing an active social networking relationship. You need to be able to mesh the What and How of your networking efforts with the basic strategies that they follow.
• Crucially importantly here, you should reach out to connect with others in ways that fit into their social networking comfort zones, as mapped out by their networking strategies and as demonstrated by any visible networking activities that you can see them carrying out online through the social networking sites that you would reach out to them through. This is certainly important if you intend to achieve your basic goals from your efforts there.

And I in turn offered that posting as an analytically reasoned line of argument in favor of open networking, as a means of finding the right people and being able to actively connect with them as needed. My focus there was on finding people who can help you find and open doors, and the more such doors the better. So if you peel back the layers to this briefly-stated progression of postings, and if you include others that also fit into this same pattern that can also be found at Social Networking and Business 1 and its Page 2 continuation, most of that is in fact grounded in the issues of who to network with, and in open networking per se.

To be clear here, I still see positive meaning and value in what I have successively offered in those and related postings. I have explicitly, directly gained from pursuing the strategies and tactics laid out there.

• I have in fact found people who I have needed to meet professionally through them, with unusual skills and experience that I have needed to tap into, who I would never have learned of let alone met, absent networking help from people who follow the types of open networking strategies that I cite in my above referenced social networking taxonomy posting.
• And I have found the networking reach that I have been able to develop through LinkedIn, to cite a particularly valuable resource here, has been an invaluable source of insight when doing my preparatory homework too, when for example working with and pitching for opportunities to work with businesses as a consultant. I have literally at times, found myself walking into a room to meet with startup founders (to cite one source of possible examples here) where I have been able to uncover information and insight that would be of crucial importance to them concerning what they were doing and seeking to do, but that those founders did not know about. To take that out of the abstract, by way of real world example, there are times when I have learned of and about expected backers who a new venture’s founders were negotiating with, when they were seeking out angel investor support to jumpstart their effort. There, in those instances, I have been able to figure out who they were turning to for that type of support from my networking and from study of the personal profiles that I have been able to see and assemble insight from. I have been able to walk into those meetings knowing that they were in fact were considering that type of move. And I arrived there knowing things about those specific potential backers and their professional backgrounds that the people I was meeting with did not know but would benefit from knowing.

No, that type of value creation from online social networking tools and their use was not and still is not a common situation, and either for me or for any other consultants who I know. But it and similar instances can and do happen and at least eventually for anyone who effectively systematically networks and who approaches that as a source of learning opportunity as well as a source of introductions opportunities. (And yes, it can take real thought as to how or even whether to reveal that type of knowledge, as simply throwing it on the table can easily kill a possible consulting opportunity for how off-putting that might make it. Never, ever come across as not respecting the people who you would work with, and even if you know up-front that they have not done their necessary due diligence – their homework, and even when gaps in what they know and should know would have significant adverse consequences if not addressed and remediated. So share selectively so as to enable conversations and follow-through, and save any further details for later as areas that can be worked on, on the job there.)

So open business oriented social networking can work; it can offer really positive value, and value that can be shared at that, in creating mutually beneficial opportunities. But having acknowledged that, I also find myself looking at the accumulation of social networking “contacts” that cumulatively pile up through processes such as Facebook friending too; I find myself looking at and thinking about that form of open networking too. And to pick up on, and continue a thought expressed in one of my above-cited earlier postings, I find myself thinking …

It’s not just who you network connect with, it’s how you network with them … but it is also really about who you network with too

… and in ways that cannot always simply and automatically be contained or defined by the types of reasoning and strategy that I lay out in postings such as my above cited taxonomy note.

So I find myself writing this as a thought piece on what arguably might be considered the challenge and the trap of Facebook friending, to focus here on that social networking venue, and on networking by the numbers … and even when doing so for explicit strategic and tactical reasons on your own part.

Let’s consider Facebook friending and let’s consider posting to the walls of your contacts on a site such as Facebook, and the consequences and impact of their so posting to yours, as a direct manifestation of how friending works in practice. And let’s at least start with what can rapidly become all but overwhelming Facebook “wall” clutter. Personal home page clutter: “wall” clutter in Facebook terms, can become overwhelmingly impactful and in both your personal home page on a social networking site as a whole, and certainly as essentially all of the social networking pages of people who you might need to connect with become overwhelmed by incessantly steady floods of stuff, as shared by and from others and often simply to share and be seen. And this point of concern certainly applies when that flood of content includes vast amounts of marketing and advertising material that is for the most part both unsolicited and unwanted by any real individual human site member. And yes, I express this in that way because sites such as Facebook, and Facebook in particular appear to have more robo-members: artifactual fake account members, set up for trolling and other message manipulation purposes, than real accounts – and they post and post and post and share and share and share too.

• Developing and maintaining a clear, effectively working focus on what you would network for and how and why, in the face of this deluge of distraction can quickly become impossible,
• And regardless of your intended social networking approach and strategy,
• And certainly when this same type and level of content flood is hitting anyone and everyone who you might want to reach out to, and at least as much as it does your own social networking site home page.

And if you need to reach out to, or find people through really widely open networkers of the type that I cite and discuss in my above-noted social networking taxonomy paper, and even if they actively work to reduce the clutter on their own social networking site pages and show a proportionately lower level of this type of deluge per contact than usual, the increased number of contact that they make can still effectively kill any business oriented social networking strategy for you, and for your contacts too, and for them as well. Clutter, like background static, can kill any intended meaningful signal and essentially every single time, and certainly when and as it comes to effectively overwhelm for its noise to signal intensity.

Can a site such as Facebook offer business networking value? Yes, if you are an advertiser there, and if you can cost-effectively purchase access to a sufficient volume of site members who fit into effectively targeted market demographics that would constitute a viable market for you. And if you do not have reason to feel concerned about a possible downside from coming across as spamming a perhaps large percentage of the people who you do wall post to. But it does not and even fundamentally cannot offer a correspondingly positive value to you if your goal is to actually network there, initiating and cultivating a wide, effective reach of genuine two way conversations out of that effort. And this leaves out essentially all of the types of targeted networking that would go into promoting and advancing your jobs and careers efforts as successively discussed in this blog in my (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 continuations.)

It also leaves out a lot of the types of online social networking that you might seek to pursue if you work as an outside consultant, with a small or stand-alone shop, to cite one possible career path where effective online social networking can offer essential value. And it can effectively eliminate at least significant possible sources of value for small business participants too, unless that is they follow a strictly opt-in networking and posting approach with their customers, and if they do not come across as seeking to buy support or positive reviews that might indicate it.

A high volume and scale of business can compensate for these potential downsides for high volume businesses and advertisers, bringing value to Facebook wall sharing to them and even as part of an overly open (e.g. non-opt-in here) networking strategy. But even there, returns on marketing and advertising investment are not going to be guaranteed and they will probably not actually come to match what a Facebook would claim as possible there. And other business social networking participant types cannot always realize anything like corresponding levels of positive value from this.

And with that offered, I return to reframe and complete my works in progress conclusion note for this posting as already offered here in two iterations: once as a posting title and again in bullet pointed italics:

It’s not just who you network connect with, It’s how you network with them … but it is also really about who you network with too, where that can be fundamentally determined by where you online network and their business model and practices.

The title of this posting is “it’s not who you network connect with, it’s who you actually know and who knows you.” And ultimately, if you do not or cannot get this right, you cannot know the people you friend, or otherwise seek to network with and they cannot get to know you. And I finish this posting by acknowledging that Facebook is currently updating their user interfaces and at least some of their business practice details with an at least stated goal of addressing at least some of the challenges that I have raised here. But their basic business model is still centered on monetizing and selling access to their member users’ data and access to their eyeballs. So I do not expect the basic issues that I raise here to change, and certainly not any time soon.

You can find this posting and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

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