Monday, April 14, 2008

More Insights from Virtual Networking Project

This has been a wonderfully beneficial project for me! I’ll admit to being somewhat lax about making use of the tools out there. Since I began this project at the end of last month I have:

  • Reconnected with several colleagues I’d worked with previously and lost touch with after moving on with our careers
  • Found a great lead for a friend looking to change jobs
  • Learned about a blogging conference, blogIN (hopefully I’ll learn things to make this a better resource)

Got lots or great feedback on how others are using virtual networking tools

I posted a question on LinkedIn asking how others use virtual networking tools and was impressed by the number of responses I received. I received many thoughtful, and insightful responses. Here are some highlights:

From Lisa Mattler (in my network):
The two I use most are Linkedin and DC Web Women (technical web site).

Linkedin is strictly professional. Use that to locate technical expertise that I may need to a project or recruiting resources when there is a job opening (either on a project or internal position with the company).

DC Web women … there is a professional and social listserv. Professional is used to ask technical advice, post positions, sharing of information, offer services, etc.

The social side you can ask anything under the sun from recommendations on a plumber, where to eat or career advice. It is a great source of information. Example: I am getting ready to study for my PMP certification. Posted a message regarding what did most people find the greatest value in – self study or instructor lead courses. Also asked to recommend names of the resources. It was very insightful.

From John Blue (in my network)
I use Linked IN for professional only links, mainly only with people I know. I also use Linked IN to search for contacts in specific industries to invite them to listen to our Truffle Media Networks podcast show series.

I use Twitter occasionally as a follower to see what some key media people are doing. I rarely post on Twitter.

Facebook I have stopped using due to it not being of great value to me. The Facebook interface requires I log in to it to get messages and such, which is kind of a pain.

Ning based groups (Smaller Indiana and Grasshoppers ) I use to keep up with niche groups. The Smaller Indiana group has sub groups that use the Ning platform to share info and to provide updates on meetings and follow up info. The Indy Book Club is a great example of using Smaller Indiana to virtually get together and in person get together to review/talk about business and culture books. See site

I also use the Google platform in some committee groups to share docs (Google docs) and maintain a calendar (Google calendar). This platform is quickest to use as it is easy to setup and use.

I recommend reading Chris Brogan to see how he uses social media tools (he is a master at this).
* Social Media Starter Moves for Entrepreneurs
* What Does Facebook Actually DO for Me?
* Twitter As Presence
* Making Business Sense of Social Media

Two others to follow are Chris Penn and John Wall at Marketing Over Coffee, they talk about how some people use virtual tools and social media tools to get people to coordinate/collaborate/communicate.

From Gary Ralston (in my network)
As a boutique business consultancy, we use LinkedIn to supplement our standard bios. We have embedded LinkedIn buttons on our website so people wishing to learn about us go straight to our profile, which looks professional and reflects our tendency to embrace and exploit new technology. We use no other Virtual Networking sites for business, although I have a Facebook account to stay in touch with university students we support and mentor.

While we keep our profiles current, we have not been active in "working" LinkedIn, and we have seen next-to-no new business from it. For our line of work, we believe it serves to reinforce a client's choice to use Ralston Consulting Inc., or assist in an "internal sale", rather than to introduce new people to us. It seems, instead, that people hire us through referral from a trusted advisor or business colleague.

Bottom line: LinkedIn helps with credibility once you have formed a relationship through other channels. It won't really make you and your business more visible unless you actively contribute.

I also received some responses from people on LinkedIn but not part of my network. Here’s one example:

I use Linkedin as a tool for my writing. I can ask a question and get many answers. I use the answers in my writing. I have also been able to connect some of my referral sources to others who are in my network.

I do have other sites, I use them to keep in touch with my network and as a place to put out my blogs.

I also just signed up for Twitter. I did so based on a recommendation I read in another blog Using Social Media to Build Your Network. It’s an interesting tool. If you’re on Twitter or decide to sign up, you can find me at indyjoyb. I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences.

I have found that there are a number of people who don’t use these tools at all. Some see sites such as LinkedIn as nothing more than glorified address books. One advantage of these tools is that by connecting on line you essentially have access to the address books of all the people in your network. Without such a tool, these connections might well be hidden to you. In fact, this is how I was able to track down former contacts, by looking at the contacts of people I was already connected with. It would have been much more difficult to find them otherwise.

I’ve avoided calling this “social networking” because that term seems to bring to mind sites such as MySpace and Facebook. While I’ve found some articles on how these sites are used for professional purposes, they are most closely associated with a younger crowd.

After all my on line interactions these past few weeks, I’m really looking forward to our “in person” discussions tomorrow! Since BJava offers complementary WiFi, I’ll bring my lap top so people can test drive any sites of interest. I’ll be posting a summary soon.

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