As association professionals, we all have networks. And one of the value propositions for most (if not all) associations is a network for members. With the technology tools available today, some of those networks are large – very large. Not like the old days before LinkedIn (2002) or Facebook(2004) when most of our networks were based on relationships that we had developed through personal, face-to-face contacts. And those networks took years to cultivate.
I suppose that there are positive attributes to both kinds of networks. The smaller, more intimate network that is based on personal interaction and the larger networks facilitated through technology tools like the ones many (not all) of us use today. But with the social media tools available today, do you really KNOW the people in your network? Why are the people who are in your network, in fact, in your network? It’s so easy to send an invitation to be part of a network, and it’s even easier to say “yes” to letting someone in your network.
Did you ever step back and look at that network and say “why are these people (or that person) in my network?” What benefit do they seek to gain? Why? What benefit might I receive? Do you seek referrals? Will you get those from people who you don’t know? Will you get those from people who don’t know you and know how well you perform in any particular circumstance? Do you hope to gain knowledge? How are you going to do that and how do you decide if the source can be trusted? Or do we simply not think about those sorts of things? I think we should.
We are all still limited by one significant common factor. Time. It really doesn’t make any difference how your network has developed. It takes time to nurture valuable relationships – business or personal. And if we don’t nurture those relationships, we really don’t have a network – we just have a list of contacts. It takes time and experience to develop trust.
So maybe we should focus on the quality of our network. Not the size of the network. A large network can add complexity to our lives and we certainly don’t need more complexity. Whatever your thoughts or your approach to networks, I think that we should all think about who is in our network, whose network we are in, and why.