Personal networks have always been important. Family networks are the most obvious case. Many businesses that have been very successful, were begun be people with strong family values and family solidarity. In the modern world, few of us belong to such closely held families. (Nor in the modern context would we want too.) Increasingly we are being offered an alternative, the option of joining purpose built membership groups, networks, or communities of practice.
Welcome to the global village. I would like to say welcome to the "information age" but this seems more like the propaganda age. Propaganda is the response of yesterday's people to modern information exchange. Propaganda is a sure formula for failure, and you'll soon discover why. People who try to propagandise their peers in a network, lose their rights of membership. (People start to ignore you.) Good networks protect and support members.
Ideally you need to be in a mix of networks, some of them worldwide and online and some of them face to face but local. Online networking is in it's infancy, so it's a good time to join. My special concern is to increase the New Zealand membership of both online and local networks. On the internet New Zealand people are networked at about the same rate as people from Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada, USA and Australia. Worldwide there's a steady rate of growth but still a very low rate of effective membership of social and business networks. These tools are new. People can't immediately see what they are useful for. They join, but without a clear objective. Lacking confidence they don't persist long enough to get involved. That is a behaviour we need to change. This table shows the low level of connection in my own city, Christchurch, New Zealand.
|City of Christchurch - Population 342,000|
|Linked In||22 members||31 Mar. 2005||181||30 Nov. 2006|
|Ryze||38 members||31 Mar. 2005||42||30 Nov. 2006|
|12 members||31 Mar. 2005||66||30 Nov. 2006|
|When these numbers are closer to 1000,
you'll know and feel the difference.
I encourage any and every reader to join one of all of those networks. You can't understand what it's about on the sideline. Joining will expand your world, and give you direct contact with hundreds of people, many of whom are "like you". You learn best and most quickly from those people who you recognise as your peers. First of all you need to find them. Equally you need to give your peers a chance to find you.
This is the largest of the three networks I'm going to write about. It's a place where you list in a fairly formal way who your are and what your employment history has been. You can link to other members you know. People you know can offer their endorsement of you as a professional, or a person who was helpful. It takes some time to set up a Linked In page, but the maintenance load is light. Cost: Free at the moment.
Ryze is a good place to network and to be involved with lots of people if you have time. Free membership on Ryze does restrict you a little, but most casual users will hardly notice. It's very important that you join lots of Ryze Networks, I suggest at least 20, because who you can talk to is largely controlled by network memberships. Working on Ryze can take half an hour a week or 5 hours a day, as you choose.
Xing is proving to be very popular with European people and many South Americans. This site is providing serious opposition to Ryze. Having the advantage of being second, many of the same functions that Ryze offers are better executed in Xing. Xing is three years old. There are now several hundred discussion networks, but the discussion has not taken off on most of them yet. Support is offered for several languages. (16 I'm told) To encourage group use, 5 recent postings to groups are listed on the front page. You can open up a page for more of these recent postings (More) and quickly find the topics that might interest yourself. You can read any of these letters. If you want to reply you must join the group. (A simple click in most cases)
Consultant Ernesto Sirolli suggests that in 25 years the number of home-based businesses could be as high as 50% of all businesses. He doesn't have to be right in detail. The direction is clear, and people in home based businesses are the ones most in need of the sort of connection and support and confidence being in a network can give you. Sadly people like that often feel that they are too small or too insignificant to be involved. Don't make that mistake, get your foot in the door. Ideas change the world, link to some new people and give your own ideas a chance.
You've read this far. Do it. There is everything to gain and little to lose by joining these networks. In a real way if you want the next ten years to be open and productive for you, being an active network member is likely to be the key to your success. First you need to join. Later, slowly or quickly as you choose, you need to get to know some people, and they need to get to know you. From that seed all things are possible.