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Want to know what we think?

Is content your new best networking friend?

As an avid networker and champion of face to face connections, something I saw recently on twitter made me think. A guy I follow (and who follows me) – you must have similar contacts who you have never met – tweeted that whilst he was grateful for his 8000+ followers, he only really knew and had ever met about 20 of them.

 

But what does that actually mean in terms of ‘social’ and ‘networking’? You know the old networking saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Is this still entirely accurate?

 

Here’s what I mean…

 

Simply put, traditional networking in the business sense is typically about meeting new people, making new contacts (therefore ‘who you know’) and how you can (mutually) make the most of these connections.

 

However…

 

As the guy above will testify, he has a huge twitter following but only ‘knows’ a very small percentage of them. So, what is it that has successfully built his ‘network’ (if he doesn’t know these people)? And how is he such a successful ‘networker’… is it because of who he knows? No.

 

This is about his content and I believe it’s because social media has put the ‘what we know’ back into networking, based on the content we share.

 

Through the platforms available we are now ‘networking’ and ‘socialising’ with people online, mobile, at any time and in any place we want (some/most of whom we don’t even know!). So given this (new) access to a much wider audience, networking is no longer limited to just the people we know and would potentially like to meet (the ‘who’).

 

Someone who likes something we’ve said/shared, asks to be our friend, our contact, our newest connection. Someone who sees a retweet or something someone else has retweeted, follows us. Realistically, it is unlikely that we will ever ‘meet’ all of our new networked connections, but the fact that they like the content we are sharing is enough to make them want to connect… and see more of the stuff that we are sharing (the ‘what we know’).

 

I have an idea of the guy I follow (and who follows me) and who he is, but this is a perception built entirely from his content, what (and how regularly) he posts and shares information, comments, photos and videos. I like the content he shares, I like what he knows. I am not his ‘friend’ and I am not linked with him in any other way – I don’t actually ‘know’ him, but I know about him because of what he knows.

 

So what’s the point to all this? Well it actually means that the two (traditional, old school) elements that make up successful networking: ‘what you know and who you know’, are being brought closer together by our activity online and how we use social media. The ‘who we know’ is extended by additional contacts and connections we have across one or more of our social platforms. The ‘what we know’ is helping to build our networks as these platforms are empowering us to share content with a much wider audience. Thus, as per the example above, we are accessing more like minded people, based on ‘what we/they know’ through the content we/they share.

 

A large proportion of what we do online, on the social media platforms revolves around content, what and how regularly we share. More people like our content (what we know) and therefore connect with us and become ‘who we know’.  The people we know (already) continue to like ‘what we know’ and the content we share, and so through sharing it themselves, give us access to more people, thus potentially expanding ‘who we know’ too.

 

Why is this important? It means that networking – for marketing and business development purposes – is now very much about what we know AND who we know.

 

Social media platforms have brought the two together, and combined them in a mutually beneficial way. Social media gives you the ideal stage to share content with a wider audience than you have ever been able to access before. The good news for you is that your content is your new networking best friend. It can keep your current network engaged and interested, showing you as a reliable, content creator/provider and leader in your industry. It can also act as a gateway to new contacts, new partners, new end users, thus expanding your network…and who knows where that can lead.

 

PS: Don’t forget the ‘people’ though. At the end of all this content sharing, there is a person. Make sure you keep them close too!