Personal networks have always been important. Family networks are the most obvious case. Many businesses that have been very successful, were begun by people with strong family values and family solidarity. In the modern world, few of us belong to such closely held families. (Nor in the modern context would we want too.) Increasingly we are being offered an alternative, the option of joining purpose built membership groups, networks, or communities of practice.
Welcome to the global village. I would like to say welcome to the "information age" but this seems more like the propaganda age. Propaganda is the response of yesterday's people to modern information exchange. Propaganda is a sure formula for failure in a networked world. You'll soon discover why. People who try to propagandise their peers in a network, lose their rights of membership. (People start to ignore you.) Good networks protect and support members.
Ideally you need to be in a mix of networks, some of them worldwide and online and some of them face to face but local. Online networking is in it's infancy, so it's a good time to join. My special concern is to increase the New Zealand membership of both online and local networks. On the internet New Zealand people are networked at about the same rate as people from Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada, USA and Australia. Worldwide there's a steady rate of growth but still a very low rate of effective membership. Social and business network groupware tools are new. Most people (including myself) can't immediately see what they are useful for. They join, but without a clear objective. Lacking confidence they don't persist long enough to get involved. Opportunity is lost. That is a behaviour we need to change.
I am privleged to know that NZ has about 5,000 members of LinkedIn. I came late to LinkedIn. I have 250+ connections. When I look for New Zealand members I can find about 560 people. LinkedIn tells me of 20 people I'm not connected too, none of whom are well connected. Where are the other 4400? Are they all isolates, or in small clustered groups? This table shows the low level of connection in my own city, Christchurch, New Zealand.
|City of Christchurch - Population 342,000|
|Linked In||50+ members||1 Nov. 2005||181 members||1 Dec. 2006|
|Ryze||43 members||1 Nov. 2005||51 members||1 Dec. 2006|
|Academici||35 members||1 Nov. 2005||n/a members||1 Dec. 2006|
|8 members||1 Nov. 2005||52 members||1 Dec. 2006|
|SoFlow||3 members||1 Nov. 2005||6 members||1 Dec. 2006|
|These numbers are the one's I can "see". If people neglect to identify the city they live in, or if they don't link to anyone else, they can't be found.|
|When the number of well connected and involved people is more like 3500, 1 percent, I believe we'll be able to know and feel the difference in the city.|
I encourage any and every reader to join one or more of those networks. You can't understand what it's about on the sideline. Joining will expand your world, and give you direct contact with hundreds of people, many of whom are "like you". You learn best and most quickly from those people who you recognise as your peers. First of all you need to find them. Equally you need to give your peers a chance to find you.
There are hundreds of networks. This is a selection of business focused ones.
This is the largest of the business networks I'm going to write about. It's a place where you list in a fairly formal way who your are and what your employment history has been. You can link to other members you know. People you know can offer their endorsement of you as a professional, or a person who was helpful. It takes some time to set up a Linked In page, but the maintenance load is light. Cost: Free for most users.
Ryze isa ggod place to network and to be involved with lots of people if you have time. Free membership on Ryze does restrict you a little, but most casual users will hardly notice. It's very important that you join lots of Ryze Networks, I suggest at least 20, because who you can talk to is largely controlled by network memberships. Working on Ryze can take half an hour a week or 5 hours a day, as you choose.
Academici is another Ryze look alike, but focused on academics and being very successful from what I can see.
Xing is a Ryze look alike that is attracting a lot of attention, particularly in Europe. Operates in 16 languages.
Viadeo offer you one month as a premium member when you first join. That time is mostly wasted on beginners. You don't know anyone yet and you struggle at first to find your way around. Most of the members speak French but there is a growing English section.
Consultant Ernesto Sirolli suggests that in 25 years the number of home-based businesses could be as high as 50% of all businesses. He doesn't have to be right in detail. The direction is clear, and people in home based businesses are the ones most in need of the sort of connection and support and confidence being in a network can give you. Sadly people like that often feel that they are too small or too insignificant to be involved. Don't make that mistake, get your foot in the door. Ideas change the world, link to some new people and give your own ideas a chance.
You've read this far. Do it. There is everything to gain and little to lose by joining these networks. In a real way if you want the next ten years to be open and productive for you, being an active network member is likely to be the key to your success. First you need to join. Later, slowly or quickly as you choose, you need to get to know some people, and they need to get to know you. From that seed all things are possible.