Networking: Greater incentive to meet face-to-face. About how e-networking may be working counter to networking, here are a few concerns raised by a few articles and debates. [Kaleem Aziz's blog at Ecademy]
In the never ending debate: networking on-line in communities like Ryze, Ecademy, or even the Coaching Forum on Applying Strategic Relations may or may not contribute to mutually beneficial relationships. On-line communities are easy to use, accessible from anywhere and bring people from diverse geographic locations to your desktop. However, it shouldn't replace physical networking.
In CIO Magazines look at the social impact of technology, a 1 Sept 2001 article "Culture Clubbed" addresses drawbacks in the assumption that technology breaks down barriers and brings up closer together. In addition it touches on the belief that technology is culture neutral. While published in 2001, the ideas presented in the article are still relevant today.
I often find contacts on-line focus on talking in excess, where offline individuals are more concerned about taking action. Imagine 190 people visiting your office everyday to just chat-- that's what happens when you get email or participate in a discussion group. Yet, out of those messages you may receive one idea, contact, or concept that you wouldn't have experienced if you were limited to face-to-face communications. (It's like the benefits gained with a standardized global postal system.)
"A Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action", Toby Keith
Often on-line networking is reduced down to a lot of chatter about nothing, even on a business forum. I work hard to focus Coaching Forum participants on performance over end-less discussion. Why? It's action that accomplishes anything in business-- I'd be happy to talk about anything all day, but only after the bills are paid-- Aren't you should be the same way in your business?
Think about the efforts you put into networking and building relationships. Are you getting the return you deserve? What about the value you bring to the other party? Networking is a focused activity, seeking to match with those who can help advance your objectives while providing a certain value for others.
On-line networking in topical communities is very convenient, but often this happens at the expense of quality. You can be just as successful with 20 strategic partners as you can be with 20,000-- especially if the smaller group is focused on specific mutual objectives.
I do encourage you to get involved in on-line communities (I even manage one of my own specifically for executives), but it should enhance a healthy blend of offline activities. Where ever you decide to spend your time, you should:
At any point you communicate with customers you should collect certain information that improves your ability to serve their needs. While consumers quickly become concern about their privacy, business to business customers expect you to use this information to their benefit.
If you collect customer information here are some things to do with it: