Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Human Social Network

One of the things I miss about my old life in business development was the ability to connect people. I loved that. I recently got to dabble in that again, and realized how different real life is from a social network online. I'm a facebook and linkedin junkie, but that's.. different. There are things you can't say in a LinkedIn recommendation. There are things you can't even bring yourself to type.

Take for instance an introduction between 2 people. One is closer to you than the other, but you know them both. You're sitting with Albert, and you suggest he should meet Bob. As part of that suggestion you might delicately say something like: "Bob's a wonderful guy, but he responds best to things that are likely to increase his bottom line." or "Bob really has a very strong interest in Bob's priorities." or "Bob's administrative assistant might need a little encouragement." All these things are not bad factors about Bob - and knowing them will make Albert's interaction with Bob more successful.

Remember, this is business, so mutually-beneficial outcomes smell different than finding Mr. Right.

While Albert might know I'm connected to Bob on LinkedIn, and I might have even posted an endorsement of Bob's tremendous leadership, my online introduction is basically worthless. And I could never post a recommendation on Bob's LinkedIn that says "Persistence is the foundation of success with Bob." Why? It might offend Bob. And I'm not sure I want to share that information broadly with the world - or even my entire network. If I like you and think this is a mutually beneficial match, I'll give you that data. If you ask me.

Here's a secret - Everyone is Bob. Priya can tell you how to write an email to me to get my attention and my help. I can tell you not to ask Priya to submit your resume to HR for you. We all know the secrets of working with the people we know well. And everyone we know well, including ourselves, is Bob.

So, that's why real networking will never overtake social networking. Real networking takes trust, subtlety, implication and understanding. It's not who you know.. it's how well you know them.

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