Social media is getting plenty of traction, but I’m still intrigued by its untapped potential, both inside the enterprise and out in open spaces.
Stubbornly, several barriers to adoption remain.
We’ve been chipping away at these hurdles here, first exploring culture in the organization, and then engagement. Those conversations have helped to surface yet another challenge: how to build valuable relationships (call them “virtual” if you must) using social media.
Let’s tee it up this way:
What are the dynamics and limits of “relationship” in a virtual world, where connections are free, global, and easily made? Can true value be achieved? And can we navigate network overload?
We’ll start with traditional business relationships, to set the stage.
Whether inside or outside of organizations, people are constantly meeting, connecting, and communicating. Results will vary. Some will pass each other by completely. Others will move closer together in their thinking and spark a collaboration, or they might hit a snag, and move further apart. It’s all in motion.
A successful organization brings a master plan to the madness. Via work groups, partnerships and/or employment relationships, an enterprise uses structure to bind together groups of people with a shared focus. There’s still that constant flux of relationships: people connecting, communicating, and learning. But if and when coordinated, good things happen, and the organization has a chance to thrive.
The impact of social media.
Our hyper-connected world accelerates and multiply’s our ability to connect with people anywhere. Boundaries of time and place are removed. Whether tweeting or blogging, the potential to meet, share and learn from others – literally around the globe – is unbounded. But there’s a catch. As you start to engage and connections start flooding in, you are soon forced to ask: Should this person be in my network? Should I reach out to them? Or will I be wasting my time?
Up front, there’s really no way to know.
I think most people that exit social media, often in frustration, do so in face of those daunting, never ending decisions. And that’s unfortunate. The possibility of each new social media connection creates a fascinating opportunity. Each connection you make brings the chance to challenge your thinking, expand your horizons, and even to change your path.
Navigating the challenges of network building
What factors will influence the chances of an online business relationship in the 2.0 space? I think it boils down to a couple of key things:
- Clarity of your intent. Why are you here? Are you tapping social media and building your network for a reason? Get in touch with that. Share your intentions right up front.
- Common ground (context). With intent on the table, establishing common ground is a matching exercise. Search engines and hashtags and communities are all ways to get connected. Believe it or not, this part is becoming easier by the day.
- Investing in your network (learning to “time box”). Relationships tend to benefit from ‘going deeper’ but time is increasingly precious. This is where many connections with potential fall short. Set aside an evening, a cup of coffee, a few minutes a day for network building. Put a box around the time commitment. That “time box” can be small, medium or large. Change the time allocation as needed, but make a commitment, to yourself and your network, so they’ll know what to expect.
- Dare to adapt. Ultimately, you may find many connections don’t align with your objectives, but don’t be too quick to filter on that. You may find new opportunities or interests by being open minded and flexible.
Sure, building a network via social media can seem overwhelming. But as the virtual world unfolds around us, it’s time to look deeper at its potential to spark new levels of collaboration. We need to think hard about what it will take to build value into our networks.
It’s easier than ever to connect with people online in the 2.0 space.
But the ultimate value – for you and for your connections – is driven by a shared willingness to focus, to set aside a little quality time on a regular basis. Even if it’s in small chunks. A tweet here. A blog comment there. One or two twitter chats. Okay, maybe three.
Are you willing to make an investment?