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The 2.0 Business Relationship: Are you investing in your network?


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

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8 thoughts on “The 2.0 Business Relationship: Are you investing in your network?

  1. Very interesting post Chris. I totally agree with your comments and appreciate your 4 key things.

    I have been studying organizational communication and I think the concept of the Media Richness Model (Daft & Lengel) is profound for organizations, and even individuals in assessing their own information-carrying capacity.

    I find that particularly on twitter, although it may seem like a good idea to follow someone who is now following me, I may quickly discover that their posts are of no intrinsic value to me. Thankfully I can quietly “unfollow” and carry on seeking like minds. A simplistic but real example of how we as consumers have control over the messages we seek.

    Thanks again for a very thoughtful post. I enjoy the discussion. Teresa

  2. Hey Teresa,

    Thanks so much for the feedback.

    I went to the web to examine Media Richness (per Daft & Lengel). Interesting. Useful view of the roles that delivery media play in communication. Since their research (mid-80′s) predates social media .. we’re left to evaluate the effectiveness of blogs, tweets, videos, etc. to communicate.

    Guess ‘payload’ efficiency for communicating would rank:

    1 – videos (explains YouTube popularity! and TV!)
    2 – blogs (constrained by writing skills, but has the most ‘real estate’)
    3 – tweets (constrained by 140c)

    I did a post on semantic clarity a ways back that may hold some interest. The 140c constraint was proving to generate much ambiguity, so the ability to achieve effective use of Twitter seemed to be forcing more attention to semantics (word meaning), context and even grammar. With so few characters and no facial expressions – every word counts !!

    So given the constraints – I’m curious if you think there is hope for meaningful relationships and collaborations to emerge from the twitterverse and blogosphere.

    I’ve started several. Do you think they could hold potential?

    Chris

    • Hi Chris,
      I do think there is potential for meaningful relationship and collaborations via twitter and blog mediums. The ability to link followers to more info is dynamic and I find personally I can pick and choose those areas I wish to learn more about by investigating further.

      The key though is creating content in those few short words or paragraphs that connect and engage isn’t it? Profound thought is important, but also meaningful messaging is essential.

      I look forward to the day when my academic writing is behind me (mostly) and I can blog about nursing, communicating, collaborating, and engaging…as those are my passions.

      Thanks for the discussion! Teresa

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  5. Sounds a lot like Social Networth – Pushkart.com uses this methodology to help merchants better target deals to social networks.

  6. Chris, you are so right. Investing time into your network is important. A blogpost, comment or tweet regularly keeps you connected. It enables learning, discovering, meeting new people etc.

    I know what happens if you don’t invest for some time. Your connections move on when you’re not around. So many information is coming, people don’t have the time to think of connections that are not around for a while. A few months go by easily.

    It takes dedication to have a valuable network. However I believe it’s easy to get back in the game by joining the conversation again. So here I am :)

  7. Bas,

    So glad you stopped by -

    From your comment, I see we’re on the same page (and it’s not the first time!).

    Seems we’ve both experienced ‘away time’ from our social networks – both short and prolonged – when life and work commitments pull us away from conversations that are important to us.

    But networks are powerful things, as they mature. To have so much talent just a few clicks away is pretty amazing. I’ll find myself wondering “I wonder what Bas is up to?” and before long, there is a post, a tweet, or a comment. Just like this one.

    I saw a fascinating quote in an excellent book on KM today by Thomas Stewart, “The Wealth of Knowledge”. It was:

    “Learning is usually social.”

    He was talking about how we relate to and learn from others, I think, but it made me stop to reflect.

    In our respective blog posts over the last 9 months – it’s been more of a virtual conversation, really – we have learned much together already. I truly look forward to learning more.

    Meantime, I must ask: Is it sunny in Amsterdam?

    Sunny and warm here stateside in NC, but fall is in the air!

    Be well, Bas – let’s talk soon.

    Chris

    p.s. Bas is on Twitter at @bottomup or check into his thought provoking blog on self-organizing & collaborative spaces.

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