The internet is a very social place (as if you did not know that already). In a paper presented at the First International Conference on Cyberspace, in May 1990, two very expert social guys, Chip Morningstar and Randell Farmer, reported that cyberspace was defined more by the social interactions involved rather the technology being used.(1) And this fact has not changed. The social currency of the internet is the communications between real people and the central characteristic of using the internet is that it provides a place where people can affect and influence each other.
That sounds a lot like ‘real’ life (versus internet life), doesn’t it? We join physical community groups around town to make friends, help others, learn things, and business groups, to advance our careers and meet other like-minded individuals. Joining a digital group is no different. Life is all about relationships, physical AND virtual, and today you have more opportunities to relate to others than you ever had before.
Successfully leveraging your virtual relationships in cyberspace are not much different from leveraging those physical relationships that you have created at your local homeowners association or your professional organization’s monthly meeting. You get to know people one-on-one and you also get to discuss things in a group.
I am sure that there are people in your physical community that you admire. And maybe there is someone’s column you like to read in the newspaper or watch on television. Today, many of those people are sharing their thoughts and expertise on the internet as well. So, the first step in your cyber-relationship training is to follow a few of those people to get to know them better. You do this by following them on the internet in one or more social networks (like LinkedIn or Twitter) and ‘listening’ to what they are saying and doing. You do not have to talk to them directly; you do not even have to interact; just ‘listen.’ (By ‘LISTEN,’ I mean to read what they say on your computer or smart phone, and to pay attention to their news feed, or blog, or tweets. This way you can get a deeper sense of what is important to them.)
Attitude Adjustment Homework #1: Follow People.* Follow a few people (whether on Twitter, LinkedIn, Connections, what ever your network of choice), whose updates may be of interest to you. You can always ‘unfollow’ them later.
(*Do you need help in how to follow? Write a comment to this post and I can give you quick steps.)
Once you start following some people. the next step is to look at what groups/communities they belong to. When you become part of a digital community, it gives you a view into the discussions of that group which can really open you up to a tremendous amount of information and knowledge that you might not get elsewhere. You may be amazed at how much knowledge people share in these little discussion sessions.
Joining a few communities is a critical part of making the whole social internet thing work.
Attitude Adjustment Homework #2 : Join at least one GROUP or Community of Practice (on any social network site).
Attitude Adjustment Homework #3: Focus 10 minutes – 3 times this coming week on ‘listening’ and feel free to comment if you have something to say.
What will make the difference in your success in the social world are the conversations you have. Moving from being a ‘local expert’ to ‘global digital expert’ takes active participation in conversations through social networks and on-line communities. Digitally, I rarely talk to just one client or colleague at a time. I talk to multiple people simultaneously, across multiple time zones, all in real-time. (The power is staggering, in a good way.)
I know that I have said this before but, an important thing about expertise is, if you don’t share it, what good is having it. Expertise comes in the RELATIONSHIP of sharing the knowledge with others.
At first you may find it a little weird ‘stalking’ around and reading people’s status’ and such, but once you start doing it, you will realize that you are not only increasing your knowledge (because there are tons of really smart people out there doing really innovative and exciting things) but you are increasing your expert value, because you are one of them.
Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.
(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)
Image 1 credit: www.lakeshore.wnyric.org
Image 2 credit: Lumaxart at www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart