It’s a Small World After All

by Sue Schnorr on March 12, 2010

In this age of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs, we’re becoming a much more open and collaborative culture, eager to share and learn. Networking is the new “normal” and most professionals who I meet ‘get’ that.

Social media is growing in huge leaps and bounds and it’s changing our culture in the way we learn and do business. The United States Patent and Trade Office states that there were under 10 social media patent applications published in 2003 and in 2008, there were over 1000. This represents 250% per year growth!

Recently, I heard someone speak with disdain about social media, saying “It’s a fad. People can’t possibly have 200 friends.” To that, I respond, “You can, and once you “get into” networking, you’ll see that you do know that many people!”

Keep in mind, it’s not as simple as Facebook puts it; friend or not. There are different levels of contacts that we all have, from an acquaintance (someone we’ve met once) to colleagues we see often, to close confidantes, who help us when times are tough and who celebrate our successes with us. The average number of contacts for professionals in the U.S> is 250.

The reason we ‘friend’ someone, or connect with them is because we share interests and have commonalities. Therefore, may of us who ‘run in the same circle’ are connected to each others’ friends, as mutual contacts. When we network with our core group, we typically find similar information ad opportunities.

When we branch out to others that we don’t know as well, it transports us to different circles, and exposes us to new clusters of people.  These ‘weaker’ contacts, that we don’t know as well (yet) are actually the strongest because they provide new opportunities.

Research in ‘clustering’ began almost 40 years ago.  As Wikipedia states: “Mark Granovetter is an American sociologist at Stanford University who has created theories in modern sociology since the 1970s. He is best known for his work in social network theory and in economic sociology, particularly his theory on the spread of information in social networks known as “The Strength of Weak Ties” (1973).”

Networking is not a new concept. The technologies are new and growing significantly and its difficult to predict how things will look in one year, let alone 5 or 10 years.

One thing is certain, change will happen. While it’s practical to predict that new social media venues are coming, and they may replace or reside along with the current ones, good old fashioned networking is not going away. The open collaboration and sharing that we see in social networking and informal learning is not a fad.

Millions of people are finding ways to connect with new people, share best practices and learn about trends … and that literally does make it  a small world after all.

What are your thoughts? Who have you met and what have you learned lately that has helped you in your business endeavors?

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