Whose (social) network is it anyway?

7 minute read

When you think about it, most every personal interaction you have every day has something to do with social networking, or more accurately, your personal social network – your social net-worth. Every meeting you have, email you send, call you make, tweet you tweet, text message you send, blog you write, tv show you watch, website you use, research you read, Facebooker you ‘friend’, twitterer tweeter you follow, report you write, newspaper you read, advert you see, question you ask, song you download, RSS feed you join, LinkedIn connection you accept, and presentation you make, all contribute to the texture of your personal knowledge base, your network, and your reputation, and informs the context of your next interaction.

In sales, as in all business, choosing the networks you influence, and the networks you choose to be influenced by, can have a fundamental impact on your personal momentum, the velocity at which you develop, and ultimately the success you achieve. We’re all increasingly interrupt driven and subjected to a melange of inputs and stimuli that crackle their way through our individual assimilative, creative, deductive, reasoning and analytical capabilities and resolve as a directive, and sometimes prescriptive personal outlook. What you choose to participate in is your choice – and as you make that choice, you should consider if it’s the optimum one, focusing first on how you’re hoping to develop (personally or professionally) and whether, and how, the choices you make can help you further those goals.


I’ve written before about the malady that I call the social network junkie. Observing the antics of this species, I’ve wondered at the braggadocio that accompanies such misdirected utterances as “I reached 15,000 LinkedIn connections today!”, or “I’m now following 4,000 people on Twitter.” The inherent stimulus overload is a certainty. Worse still is the impact it has on the rest of us. It undermines the considerable value of the network.

When Einstein was asked if he kept a notebook beside his bed to record good ideas that came to him, he replied that he had no need for such a thing, as he had only ever had one good idea. Not so for many of the social network junkies who have multiple thoughts every few minutes, that they feel compelled to reduce to tweets to share with the world. [My advice: Quick click on ‘Unfollow’].

I, for one, am already too frequently interrupted to welcome the misguided “I’d like to invite you to join my professional network on LinkedIn” missive, the invitation issued only to increase the sender’s LinkedIn connections count, like some many notches on a virtual network belt. Too frequently, those bandwidth and time thieves (my time, my bandwidth) have given little or no thought to the mutual value of the connection. It’s spam – plain and simple.

Networking (or getting to know people) has always been at the core of personal interaction. It’s always been polite (and productive) to expend more energy in being interested in your social counterpart than proving that you are interesting. The bore you avoided at the cocktail party has been replaced by the Internet enabled social networking junkie. In blind pursuit of more friends/connections/followers – the associated number (of friends/connections/followers) to be held up as a badge of self importance or self worth – this bore can ruin the party.

I’d like to think that I have consideration for my friends/connections/followers, and those that I have in my network add real value to my personal and professional life. I welcome invitations to connect on LinkedIn from (sometimes unknown) professionals who’ve considered how the relationship might be beneficial to at least one of us. I like to help if I can. I’ve surely received value, and I do believe in giving to your network, just as you would give to your friends. The watchwords for any relationship are, in my opinion, mutual respect and perspective, and as the Internet allows us to speed everything up, sometimes we need to slow down lest we lose sight of the core worth of the collaboration.

We’ve not managed to win the battle against unsolicited email – but we can control our participation in social networks. Spam accounts for more than 90% of all email traffic, up from 65% in 2005, with upwards of 60 trillion spam messages being sent every year. According to a study by McAfee, the eco-cost of dealing with an unsolicited email (presumably this is equally application to solicited email) is 0.3g of carbon dioxide per email. It’s pretty much out of control. The outages on Twitter, and other such sites, are the first indicators that the tentacles of the new social media are getting tangled, and in some cases, are suffering from too much traffic – much of it worthless. The eco-cost is unknown (and not the focus of this blog) but the personal cost is one of reduced productivity, and diminished returns.

I’ve derived huge value from social networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter is a wonderful real-time research engine. As I continue to seek out inspiration for future versions of Dealmaker (our Sales Performance Automation platform), I frequently mine the insights and analysis of my [respected] network on Twitter. Twitter is too a multi-faceted billboard – when you have something useful and valuable to contribute. LinkedIn has helped me find employees for my company (The TAS Group), and introductions to customers and business partners. And both have help me to re-discover friends with whom I had lost contact.


A recent Gartner report on social networks (in an enterprise context) reports that:

  • An enterprise’s various social networks, with very distinct characteristics, have different effects on an enterprise’s achievement of its business objectives.
  • Relationships in social networks can be opposing, neutral, cooperative or collaborative.
  • Players in a social network will generally improve the achievement of their individual and collective objectives as relationships slide from opposing to neutral, cooperative and collaborative.

It follows with these recommendations:

  • Assess social networks and their possible positive or negative impact on business objectives.
  • Use value network analysis (VNA) to understand the drivers, characteristics, dynamics
    and outcomes of social network relationships.
  • Design initiatives focused on evolving the relationship patterns with the objective of
    leveraging the positive effects and neutralizing the negative ones.

As you consider how to weave social media into your personal and professional life, you might reflect on your objectives. Whose cocktail party do you want to join, and who to you want to invite to your soiree. What do you want your visitors to feel after their visit? Do you want to have made a specific impact, just strengthen your relationship, or deliver a particular message?

It’s said that you can tell a lot about a person by the company she keeps. Remember, it’s your network to shape, your asset to mine. Don’t lessen its value by a cavalier approach, reducing the value of your true friend to just an invisible name in the midst of a myriad of connections, or by inviting too many strangers into your home. This considered approach will increase the value – not just of your own circle of friends – but of the social network as a whole. And that’s something we will all benefit from in the end.



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