Personal networking – Remember the forums

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN – there are many ‘new’ platforms through which we can now ‘network’ with our peers and colleagues. In theory, you can never have enough social networks, but there has to be some limiting criteria lest we get overwhelmed and end up ‘networking’ 24/7 with the work piling on our virtual desks.

If a platform:

  1. Keeps it simple
  2. Encourages time-saving
  3. Provides access to a group of like-minded people with similar interests

then it’s worth adopting.

There are very few platforms that check all 3 boxes. Instant messaging (IM) has it’s place (how would you get your business done without Skype?) but it’s neither time-saving (you could argue that it cuts down on the lag that emails introduce but IM doesn’t ‘encourage’ time-saving) nor does it give you instant access to a group of people (one-to-one communication).

Facebook and similar social apps have a similar problem with time. As bloggers and generally as people who have non-traditional jobs, time management is especially important. If you’re going to spend 2 hours playing with facebook apps, that time’s not coming back (and depending on how much you charge per hour, that’s anywhere between $50 to $1000 of consulting fees lost).

Don’t get me wrong – social apps are excellent networking (and marketing) tools, however if I had to drop something from my list in order to get work done those would be the first I’d drop.

I like LinkedIN a lot primarily because it keeps things simple and doesn’t require too much time to keep updated or network with others. I hired the designer for Soccerlens through LinkedIN and for that alone I’m grateful because he’s done an excellent job in the past year or so. I’ve also hired programmers and writers this way. Everyone’s experiences are different but if you’re getting work done in less time, why not?

Forums offer a balanced blend of all three options. You meet like-minded people, it’s easier to ’switch off’ and spend less time than you would IMing or Facebooking, and they’re extremely simple to use.

Earlier this week I talked about ‘giving more to get more‘ – and while that approach works great on blogs (you reach a much greater audience), the opportunity to build lasting professional relationships is a lot higher in forums. With fewer people involved, you can give each person more attention that you would be able to through a blog.

What do you think? Are forums better for networking than the newer breed of tools available to us?

This article was originally written on 29 Sep 2007 for Performancing.com.

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