Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Update from April 15 Discussion Group Meeting

What a wonderful way to start the day! We had a small but very enthusiastic and engaged group that met yesterday at B Java. The best coffee in town and stimulating conversation - it certainly started my day on a positive note and kept me going all day.

One of the benefits of meeting at BJ's place was the free WiFi, so I could do a show and tell of the sites I've been playing with all month.

The first question that came up was how much time did I have to devote to my online networking efforts. The honest answer is quite a bit. Probably a couple of hours a day. However, that included research into articles and blogs reviewing the various tools, some trial and error on my part, and setting up and creating all my profiles. The maintenance time will be much less.

However, if all you do is just put up profiles and create contact lists, you're really not going to get much from these tools. You need to establish your presence on these sites and the best way to do this is to participate. With tools like LinkedIn and Naymz once you set up your profile and your networks, your level of activity on the site will depend on your goals. With other sites like Smaller Indiana and Twitter you will need to have more regular interaction to get the most out of the site.

I have to say, I love the LinkedIn Answers section! I'm beginning to work on next month's topic, Women & Leadership, and posted a question on LinkedIn asking for referrals on resources for that project. I was completely blown away by the number of responses I got back and the majority of them came from people outside of my network! I got referrals to executive coaches, articles, websites and more. (I can't wait for next month!) This is a great tool that can allow you not only to tap into some awesome resources out there but also establish your expertise by providing answers to others. I really like how this feature has made that particular site much more interactive.

I'm a true fan of Smaller Indiana! This week alone, I've had two phone conferences with people I connected with on that site as well as connected a friend of mine looking for a new job with someone who had an opening. I never would have made those connections otherwise. I've made a point of trying to add something new every day. It may be as simple as adding a comment to an ongoing discussion or adding the W&HT discussion group meetings to the event calendar.

I've had an interesting experience with Twitter. I'm still on the learning curve. I'd initially crossed it off my list of sites to try out based on feedback from my technical consultant, my 26 year old daughter. I'd describe it as blogging for the ADD set. There's everything out there from people sharing the mundane, like what they had for lunch, to sharing really useful information. Since your posts are limited to 140 characters, it does force you to be succinct. I did find a useful blog entry on using Twitter, How to Use Twitter, Tips for Bloggers. Even though the focus is on blogging, the tips are useful for anyone wanting to establish an online presence. I've chosen to only follow people I think post useful information. I was surprised when I looked at my list the the majority are men. I need to do a bit more research and see how many women use the site. So, for those of you out there reading this, do you use Twitter? You can follow me @indyjoyb.

In summary, I am extremely pleased with the results I've seen from my virtual networking efforts these past few weeks. I don't intend this to be a one time effort and I'm currently working on ways to incorporate these activities into my regular routine.

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