Combine the power of the Internet with the evolution of digital media, apply the principles of “Social Networking” and you have the main ingredients for the recipe that is revolutionizing how business is being conducted today. All you have to do is look at the tremendously successful companies that have been built upon the platform of social networking (MySpace, Ecademy, Linked-In, Flickr, Facebook etc.) or the unprecedented growth of the Blogosphere and you will quickly recognize that social networking is here to stay.
While social networking is clearly allowing major corporations to be more productive by extending their brand and having better communication throughout the entire value chain, it is its impact on small business that is perhaps most impressive. The ability of social networking to level the playing field for the individual practitioner and the small or medium enterprise is truly awesome. It was the Internet that established the global economy, but it is social networking that is making it a reality.
A bit of background…The term “Social Networking” in its most classic sense is best defined as the study of how people interact with one another. It studies the dynamics between nodes (people) and links (their relationships). Since the term was coined in 1954 by J.A. Barnes its significance has leapt from the halls of academia to gain visibility in the boardrooms of global corporations. It has evolved from the study of human relations in sociological, anthropological and psychological settings to the study of professional relationships and organizational theory in business environments.
When all the buzzwords and techno-jargon are removed social networking is about aligning interests and motivations to create influence. There are intelligent and well established business people with virtually non-existent networks and little true influence, and there are what would on the surface appear to be obscure individuals with huge networks who wield tremendous amounts of influence.
Social networking analysis has shown that the greatest amounts of power and influence inside the corporation don’t necessarily reside at the top of the org chart as one might think. Studies have concluded that the individuals who possess the most influence in a company are the most trusted people with the broadest base of connections, and not necessarily the person that has the highest rank or biggest title. Likewise, the same holds true for external networks…It is about the quality (are the people in your network significant?), character (do the people in your network trust you and do you trust them?) and relevance (are the people in your network capable of wielding influence that is aligned with your needs?) of the people in your network that matter.
The last and most important ingredient in the construction of your network is that you must be a contributor…The old axioms “you’ll reap what you sew” or “give and you shall receive” have never been truer than when applied to social networking. If you are truly motivated to provide value and benefit to those in your network then you will receive value in return. However if you are a user and abuser of your network, only taking from others and giving nothing in return, you will bleed your network dry only to watch it crumble before your eyes.
With proper motivation, careful construction and active management of your network there is no reason to assume that it won’t be a success. Focus on leveraging the most important spheres of influence for the mutual benefit of those in your network. If you adopt the suggestions contained in this article your network will grow with geometric progression while spanning industries, geographies and cultures.
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