“It’s not what you know it’s who you know that matters.”
I don’t recall from whom I heard that for the first time. Most likely my father, but it could just as easily have been my mom, my first boss or maybe even some teacher along the way. Though confounded in efforts to determine my own source, let alone the true etymology of this phrase, when it comes to the world of business and technology, historically the breadth of one’s Rolodex has determined the depth of their influence. Social media is changing that.
The personal nature of the connections afforded by social technology applications I believe calls for an amendment to that oft-used phrase. It’s not just who you know, it’s how you know them. Where are you connected? What type of information do you share? Just because you know the things a person has done during the day does that mean you know who they are?
No. It doesn’t.
It can, however, give a starting point to understand someone’s narrative – a starting point from which one can build the kind of relationships that, used properly, can have powerful results. Just ask President Barack Obama. Better yet, ask Marshall Ganz, because it’s his principles on the power of personal stories in trying to influence people that the Obama campaign used to such great effect. You may not realize it, but every item you post via any online platform is an ingredient of your narrative. These online extensions of self provide others with a way to find like-minded allies as well as give others a way to find and connect with you.
This creates an interesting challenge for the principle at the base of the phrase that opened this post. In the old days, building one’s professional network was done in a fairly set way. You went to events. You participated in clubs. You handed out business cards and kept your address book database up to date with the people you met. Today platforms originally designed largely for social use are being leveraged for professional contacts.
With the line between personal and professional blurring, it makes things difficult. If someone you meet briefly in a professional setting tries to “friend” you on Facebook and shares information that might seem more personal than merited by a brief business interaction, does that color your opinion of them? Does it make you question their discretion or ability to assess people?
We now have the ability to discover and connect with an almost infinite number of people, discovering connections while wending the way through friends and friends of friends. In some ways building and expanding your professional network has never been this easy. At the same time, the nuance and subtlety required to build truly solid and long-standing professional relationships has a way to go until it’s more fully integrated in today’s process.
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