Many networkers play golf. At the practice I work for, we have a partner who plays golf, and he’s very good at it.
Not just at the golf though. He is also a charming, easy going person who is comfortable in social circles. This person is asked to play golf because he’s a nice guy.
Business people play golf because it is an environment outside of business but not entirely social, where people can talk in an unencumbered way about work. So it’s a great environment for introducing people to each other, and seeing if they get along before any commitments are made.
My practice gets a lot of work directly or indirectly from golf. But the game of golf is just a tool – what matters is what you do with it.
Let’s have a look at an online example.
Twitter is often described as a round the clock party. This has been enhanced by the media frenzy earlier this year as celebrities piled in to twitter and had competitions with each other to get to a million followers, and its still going on. You can see why people who don’t use twitter think its all about trivialities.
But twitter isn’t just a party. It’s more important than that. Twitter is a tool for having conversations, and what matters is what you do with it.
On twitter people come and go over time, groups form and reform in which conversations take place. The tool creates the environment where this is possible over time and geographical boundaries. Some conversations I have with people take place over days, and I have received help and advice from three continents. The Twitter website, and the applications which use its data, facilitate this by making the data accessible.
That’s useful enough in itself, but unlike the game of golf, on twitter most of the conversations are visible. The sphere in which twitter users operate is a remarkably open place, and with google now indexing twitter people can search for key words both within twitter and on search engines. By searching they can find people talking about things in which they are interested, and listen in.
I’ve no idea how many people listen into my conversations on twitter, but as they do they find out more about me, what I care about and what I can help with. And when they are ready, they get involved.
With twitter, as with golf, people will introduce you to the right people once they really understand what makes you tick. My practice gets a lot of work directly and indirectly from twitter. But twitter is just a tool – what matters is what you do with it.
So when you’re looking at a tool for online networking, don’t be persuaded, or dissuaded, by the hype. Reserve judgement until you find out how it works and whether it will work for you.