Greensilkmuse's Blog

Building Communities

Posted in Business,Networks by greensilkmuse on May 13, 2010

I do a LOT of networking.  Have to.  I know several people who bemoan the fact that they just don’t do enough of it.  They have too  much “real” work to do and just can’t devote the time.   Since it takes time to build relationships, they are sure to find themselves in a “professional credit crunch.”   You know, spending current social capital and not investing in the future. 

I used to be in that boat too, so I absolutely understand where they are coming from.  Since I’ve been much more engaged in making connections, I’ve come to understand the value and I wish I’d have come to this realization earlier.  It is often exhilarating, at times exhausting, sometimes disappointing, but most often energizing.   There are many avenues for networking like this:

Or, like this:

Once you get past the initial awkwardness and superficial pleasantries, it is great when you connect with someone and can go on to deepen the relationship.  I feel really good when I can help someone out by making them aware of an opportunity or connecting them with someone else.

I’ve been intrigued by social networks for some time, now.   The network analysis that can be done, showing how people connect to accomplish things, is really interesting to me.  So much so that I learned how to identify and analyze these networks so that I could help people understand their own connections and consider how to build and leverage their networks. 

Here’s an example of a simple network diagram.

Jenny, Jack, and John bridge  their networks.  They might be gatekeepers or brokers of information — with the power to decide just what goes in and out of their worlds.  However, they are uniquely positioned to create further connections between the people in  each others network; thereby building a broader community.

I am actively looking to make introductions to people who may not otherwise meet each other and who might benefit from the connection.   I find that I learn so much from talking with people who are not in my day-to-day life.  It’s how I hear of emerging trends, find resources, get referrals, and get exposed to new ideas.   I’d like to create those opportunities for others.  And people always seem to appreciate connecting with interesting people.  This is what makes all this networking so stimulating for me.  It’s like fuel.

On-line social networks have created entirely new avenues for making connections and nurturing relationships. Technology has made it much easier to find people, categorize the nature of your relationship with them, and judge whether you are operating in a close-knit circle or have a diversified relationship portfolio. 

This diagram shows the various connections of a community.  And the idea for many social network sites is to build community.  In fact, there are even off-line communities that seek to leverage on-line tools such as blogs and discussion boards to engage and strengthen their community.

 That sense of community creates a foundation, a sense of belonging.   People within a community share something in common that makes it easier for them to be at ease, to develop trust, and to want to help one another. 

Great networkers, however, don’t just build community, they connect communities.  It’s about bringing together people with disparate backgrounds – filling needs that existing communities cannot and setting the foundation for new communities to develop.  So, as I take stock of my ever growing network, I think about how I can add value to relationships by connecting communities and I wonder how can I help others to do the same.   I’ve started to pull together concepts, tools, and exercises for a workshop on optimizing social capital.  It will be about how to assess your network, enhance it, build trust, and gain influence.  As it starts to take shape, I’ll share key concepts in this space.   Contributions, comments, and suggestions are welcome.  What have been your networking experiences?


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