As a single working mom, technology is normally my savior, not my nemesis. Although it might not seem so when I hear my son start to complain about being a “BlackBerry Orphan” simply because I took a break from playing hockey to check my messages. Hopefully one day he’ll grasp that the only reason I’m able to be out there freezing my butt off, wearing 20-year old figure skates, and playing hockey with him and his pals, is precisely because I can check my messages between face-offs. But, I’ve learned not to argue with 7-year olds wielding hockey sticks.
However, even a technology lover like me can be overwhelmed at times, especially when it comes to online networking. This is one area where I’ve found that too much of a good thing is really “too much.” So, how can you keep things in check when it comes to online networking (and you don’t have second-graders chasing you around with hockey sticks)? Try the following combination of strategy, moderation and focus.
1. Be proactive, not reactive. Instead of responding haphazardly (or not at all) to the invites you might receive from colleagues already in social networks – i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, Ryze, or WorkItMom, to name a few -- or signing up for a site just for the sake of signing up, take charge and spend some time finding the right network(s) for you.
- What are your business and personal goals with online networking?
- What type of people do you want to meet?
- Where do they hang out on line?
- Which of your friends is sending you invites and from what groups?
I was a LinkedIn proponent (and still am for certain functionalities), but last year when two respected colleagues who are always on the cutting edge of technology both sent me an invite to Facebook on the same day, I set aside my lunch hour to investigate it further.
2. Be focused, not flighty. With in-person networks, you have to show up regularly to get any benefit out of joining. The same goes for online networks. Test out one or two at a time until you find one you like. Remember, there’s a big difference (even at live events) between minglers and networkers. Minglers flit from place to place, conversation to conversation, but never build relationships. Networkers are master minglers, but they also move the conversation, and the relationship, forward. Block off 30 minutes per week to update your bio, send out a few invitations or test out a new function on the site. I’ve found that I like the “Answers” function on LinkedIn – especially for my questions about marketing, HR, and technology. On Facebook, I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed just scanning my friends profiles (or even Twitter comments) to see what they were up to. Sometimes stuff they were doing would spark new brainstorms for me, or simply just make me laugh.