Twitter versus Real Networking

As an almost daily blogger over the past 10 months, as well as a member of Twitter and LinkedIn, I’ve been struggling to understand the distinctions between some of the media platforms and real networking, a subject about which I’ve coached clients for nearly 10 years.  Ina recent post, Harvard’s Rosabeth Kanter identified a number of distinctive differences and shared several origina land immensely practical insights.  Among other important differences,she pointed out that real networking changes the very nature of career success, a terrifically important matter for most anyone in this economy.  So, networking should change the way you manage your career. 

The key to understanding Twitter is that it gives away access to information in each tweet and rewards the giver by building followers. It’s a circular process.  The more followers, the more info comes in tobe distributed.  However, in contrast to face-to-face networks (what Icall “real networking”), Twitter can’t be controlled and there isno collective interaction, seriously limiting the quality of what youneed for personal input.  The term “collective interaction” has abackground in science referring to organized patterns like insects,colonies of bacteria, or even geese that may be controlled and in somesettings commanded.  As Kanter implies, real networks have thepotential to be accessed or managed by individuals for their own use. But you can’t control twitter like you can manage other networks.

Put it this way.  If you’re a member of an organization you cancreate and access networks for career needs, be it information,strategy, contact with power and opinion leaders, resources or even newopportunities.  In the last century, as Kanter points out, America wasa society of organizations with formal hierarchies and clear reportingrelationships which gave people their position and their power. Organizations and leaders controlled and limited power.  For careersuccess in that world you had to be “technically adept” and”interpersonally pleasant” (thus, the skills of brown nosing andsucking-up).

Today, people from any level of the organization can manageinfluence and power by working with networks that were organized byother people.  The organizational hierarchy has no real control overthat power.  If you actively set out to connect and build relationshipsamong the various groups, you can get things done.  Or as Kantersuggests, “She who has the best network wins.”  And you don’t have tobe the formal boss to have power. 

In sum, power is no longer controlled or limited by theorganization.  It is accessible to all via face-to-face networking. The caveat, of course, is that you also act with the understanding thatthe purpose of a network is to make a contribution, not merely to get.

In conversations with my Gen-Y protege, a networking genius, hetells me that it takes about six months from the start of your job tobegin to see results and access information of various sorts.  He, forexample, wanted information on other job opportunities, varioussupervisors, organizational insight and needed competencies for his owncareer.  What’s also intriguing, he says, is that very few play thenetwork field, leaving it wide open for proactive networkingentrepreneurs. 

It takes moxie, strategy and focus, as well as conversational skillsto get moving on networks.  Thinking of networks as social power,Kanter says that networking control is tied to two issues:  the lengthof your organizational experience and whether your job encouragesgetting know a large number of people.  Entry-level people rarely havejobs that ENCOURAGE getting to know a lot of people, but thefast-trackers, like my protege, have shown themselves adept atmanaging that barrier. 

Ultimately the power to connect with others and span all kinds oforganizational boundaries lies in yourself, not “in the stars.” Committed networkers can readily access the rewards of realnetworking: extensive knowledge of opportunities, better pay, fasterpromotions, and promotions at younger ages.  Those are very exciting”goodies.”

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