Are You LinkedInThumblered To Facepintweetxing?

Networking is made so incredibly easy nowadays. All you have to do is join on of the many networks, add a nice picture of yourself (or just a picture that represents either you or your alter ego or, maybe just a picture for hiding behind), browse a bit to find people might might know or might share interests or maybe just have an attractive profile picture… click ‘connect’ or ‘add friend’ (depending on the network platform) and wow! You’re networking.

Or not.

Technology and the internet make it indeed so much easier to reach out and connect with people.That’s brilliant if you want to stay in touch with friends or colleagues that inevitably end up spread all over the world sooner or later. It’s equally useful for the necessary ‘staying in touch’ with contacts and acquaintances who’s path you otherwise would just cross once per year on some major yacht show. This of course brings up the question as to how many ways one needs to stay connected to one and the same person. You might think that if you have the email address and mobile number you really don’t need to add them in Facebook and LinkedIn, too. Do you?

Well, as you already discovered, people move. Or change jobs. And sometimes they just forget to notify all the people in their address book personally about these changes. Or vice versa… people change their email address because they receive too much spam. Or they say ‘farewell’ to Facebook because they disagree with their T&C (just to re-join later with a new profile). Either way, there is a valid point in cross-connecting to the people you want to stay connected with.

And of course these different platforms serve different purposes. One’s for the old school friends. The other one’s for the professional connections. In one place you feel like broadcasting yourself, in the other place you discuss philosophy. Or whatever. These places are as diverse as you, so it’s a good thing that every social need is catered for somehow, somewhere. In real life it’s not that easy, though, and the can be confusing sometimes.

“I used to joke that I use LinkedIn for flirting. Trouble is, it seems some people do. On the other hand, Facebook can be pretty good for professional networking, and in some places like Japan, this seems to be the main purpose.”

Another issue worth mentioning is inflation. Although most platforms do in one way or the other tell you to only connect to people you know, truth is that they still encourage you to connect a lot. Apart from posting and discussing posts, the one way to stay on top of the activity list (and therefor the chance of being seen) is to add people. Incidentally, you might not need that encouragement anyway. People ask to connect to you. Chances are, you will find a reason to accept (because you’re in the same business or share the passion for similar topics), so you’ll end up with hundreds of contacts. Some people even reach thousands, but what are the odds that you’ll really keep in contact with them? What’s the likelihood to discuss the topics you have in common and will you remember them when you need a specific connection for a specific project?

Another problem – and that’s in our opinion the worst of them – is that making networking so easy stops people from networking at all. You click ‘connect’, you’re lucky because the other side accepts with a single click. And now you’re networking.

Well, actually, you don’t. You just decorated your list of contacts with another trophy, as if the sheer presence of a certain name will reflect well on you. Or as if the length of your list will act as some kind of miracle endorsement. Occasionally, people connect in order to ‘follow you’… another, slightly creepy aspect of social networks. It might be great in places like Twitter where all you really want to do is broadcasting your current feelings. But how about following someone without becoming friends on Facebook? Isn’t that stalking? And how does ‘following’ work on LinkedIn if you don’t publish posts?

“Call me old fashioned, but I firmly believe that at the heart of networking there needs to be communication. A proper, good old communication between two people, talking with each other. That’s why I always drop a little note when someone for example wants to connect to me on LinkedIn. If the person answers, I know he understood the principles of communication. If not I have to assume it’s just another name collector…”