A few years ago I was the lucky recipient of a pretty sweet severance package. Part of the deal was that I’d get some career counseling. Part of the learning experience of the career counseling was that I learned a new way to describe myself: "selectively social." I’m a pretty sociable guy, once I get to know you. But if I don’t know you, I generally won’t pay much attention to you. I vastly prefer spending time with people I love and trust, and whom I know love and trust me, to spending time with relative strangers. So that’s my deal. But being reluctant to meet new people kinda throws a hitch in my ability to expand my business network. So, back when LinkedIn started gaining steam, I signed up. For a long time I was a lonely soul with no connections, but eventually I convinced a few other people to sign up, so that I could at least add them to my connections. But still, it’s pretty meager.
So when Steve Rubel invited people to connect with him via LinkedIn a while back, I swallowed hard and sent an invite. He added me to his network and that quickly expanded mine, so that was nice. But, through all this time of being part of LinkedIn, I still haven’t really seen any benefit to being a member.
LinkedIn, Ryze, etc… promised to flatten social networking, and they have. But it’s still awkward and weird to "connect" with a new person via these channels. For instance, I really dig Bill Jensen’s work. We’ve corresponded briefly via email (btw, don’t hassle him about his non-existent blog…already did it), but I couldn’t say he’s a friend, or even someone I know. I noticed that he’s on Marc Orchant‘s list of connections and Marc’s on my list of connections. In LinkedIn, I can request a connection with Bill either directly, hoping he’ll remember me from our brief email exchange, or I can request that Marc connect us. Both options are kind of awkward, at least I think so. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t do this in "real life" so I’m uncomfortable doing it virtually.
For me , at least, writing here works well for overcoming my own reluctant nature. I can write a bit, link to people, they come see what kind of slander I’ve written about them, comment a bit, and suddenly we’re pals! It’s definitely slower, and less predictable, but I think it also has the potential to build a deeper relationship than simply clicking a few buttons and becoming "networked."
On the other hand, using both blog and social networking channels to expand my reach is a good practice. Never know when it might come in handy. Also, neither my LinkedIn connections nor my "real" connections are particularly germane to my work (sole exception to Matt). That’s kinda weird. In fact, I’m going to a conference later this month, for the third year, and my guess is that, like the other two years, I won’t leave really knowing any new people. That’s pretty much all my fault, though to be honest, I don’t spend much time worrying about it. In my field, folks are pretty collegial, and will help one another out even if you’ve never met face to face.