Larry BraunerI’ve written many articles about social networking sites. Here’s some food for thought.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Ning call themselves social networking sites, while Twitter does not. However, Twitter has features like messaging and re-tweeting that can facilitate social networking.

Little Real Networking on Social Networking Sites

Social Networking SitesThese social networking platforms are extremely popular, but in my opinion, there’s little real social or business networking taking place on these online networking sites.

Sure, people are connecting and communicating on these sites, but few so-called social networkers are developing the important relationships that lead to the introductions, recommendations and opportunities they desire.

Social networking sites are used quite a lot to substitute for email, to share content, and to market products and services. Social networking sites are only infrequently used to build their users meaningful business or social networks.

Do you agree with my assessment, and if so, why do you think this is true? Lack of knowledge? Laziness? Other factors?

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18 Responses to “How Much Real Networking on Social Networking Sites?”

  1. Jeff Moreau on April 21st, 2011 10:46 pm

    Hi Larry, Yes, I do agree with you on this one. It seems like it’s just a connect and sharing of information for the most part. Any real connection is done off site.

    Jeff

  2. Larry Brauner on April 21st, 2011 10:54 pm

    I believe that there’s little offsite relationship building either, Jeff.

  3. Jake on April 21st, 2011 11:42 pm

    Larry,

    I agree totally with you. During the last two years I have been working with local businesses. During the last month I have started helping them set up mobile campaigns as that is a wide open space. I did my informal market research with my 23 year old son and his wife and all his friends.

    I have found that the “social networking,” Twitter, et al are really just ways for existing offline groups, friends and organizations to communicate.

  4. Gio on April 22nd, 2011 2:59 am

    I do agree with you, Larry. I think that as men use just 10% of their brain, this happens also with the using of social networks.

  5. Ernest O'Dell on April 22nd, 2011 5:03 am

    Larry,

    Hi, Ernest O’Dell here. I think a lot of social “networking” takes place, but only off-site and off-line. I spend a lot of “quality time” developing relationships with people I’ve met on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve been known to call people up and talk to them for a half hour or more. We really do get a lot accomplished.

    Just think about it: I haven’t called you in a while, but we have chatted on the phone a few times. So, I think — initially — there’s some contact on the social networks going on, but the bulk of the real networking takes place offline.

    Why isn’t there MORE “networking” going on in the online social media venues? Could be like you said: lack of knowledge (of how the “systems” all work and how they’re integrated with one another) or they’re just too lazy.

    And, of course, if people are just too busy, it could be misinterpreted as lazy.

    I know a lot of my contacts go in “cycles” and I don’t see a lot of “activity” from them. It could be that they’re just busy with their regular jobs: not everybody is making a gazillion dollars a day (as some would lead you to believe).

    I know a lot of real estate people who spend a lot of time actually getting their “hands-on” time with clients, and investors/rehabbers getting their hands dirty, fixing up properties. I know a lot of people in the insurance business who spend a lot of time “setting” appointments then spending the rest of the week following up on them. So, some people just don’t have time to be “lazy” per se, they just don’t have time to “chit-chat” like others.

    Me… well, that’s a different story. I multi-task! :))

    If I don’t have to drive 25 miles to the office to get my work done, I won’t. I would rather make the three foot commute anytime. But, am I just as busy? Yep. Still have a lot to do, and a lot to learn.

    Which reminds me: I must pare down some of these articles and get them post on the SMN soon. I’ve been lax in my duties. :)

    In closing, I wouldn’t really classify myself as a “social networker” — although I am a social creature of sorts: I just use the networks to do some of my social interacting.

    Who knows: maybe I’m just too much “old school” and still look at the Internet as just another medium of communications like the telephone or the fax… or the television and radio.

    Or perhaps it’s just my Neanderthal paradigm… ;)

    Great article, Larry. Short, and to the point, but great.

    ~~Ernest

  6. Judi Brown on April 22nd, 2011 6:52 am

    I don’t disagree, however it seems to me that I’m actually seeing an increase in in-person networking activities that have developed as a result of interactions on various social media sites. And over time those interactions will develop into mutually beneficial relationships.

  7. Jack Goldenberg on April 22nd, 2011 6:59 am

    I’m not sure, Larry. I’ll have to get back to you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Vimeo, Jaiku, Bebo, Badoo, Gather, Mixi, Skyrock or Twitter. Or I may just give you a call on the ah, the ah, what was the name of that thing we used to use to call each other? Jack

  8. Colleen on April 22nd, 2011 12:23 pm

    It’s fun to chat with your friends and share pix and get comments. It’s work to reach out to peeps professionally, and to write good FB notes or post links that will get you noticed professionally. People would rather mess around than work. That was true before “Social Networking” and social networking didn’t change it.

  9. Mitch Mitchell on April 22nd, 2011 7:15 pm

    Unfortunately I have to agree with you on this one. My belief had always been that all these social media sites would give us a chance to initially get to know each other, then we’d have the opportunity to move to the next level. Other than local tweetups, which aren’t really business networking events, that has never come to fruition.

    Instead, we see a lot of people join a network that only a couple of folks participate in, and that’s on FB as well as LinkedIn, and for the most part Twitter as well.

    People give out lots of information; very few are taking any time to learn anything about those people who connect with them in some fashion.

  10. Mirdza on April 24th, 2011 2:11 pm

    It totally depends on each of us, actually. I have built some wonderful relationships on social sites like Facebook. Yes, there are many that just post random things or simply advertise and that don’t answer us when we send them a message or post on their wall, but it’s a wonderful place to meet new people and connect with people we’ve known before and build a relationship. We can find out things about them we never even knew and build on that.

  11. Larry Brauner on April 24th, 2011 3:07 pm

    You all make important points.

    Mirdza underscores the potential of social networking sites like Facebook. However, relatively few people capitalize on the potential of social networks.

  12. Buddy Hodges on April 24th, 2011 5:35 pm

    I think a lot of people are confused about their goals for social media. There seems to be an emphasis on maximizing the sheer quantity of “connections,” rather than on maximizing the amount of actual connection.

    The news stream rolls past so fast that one has little time to respond to each post and engage in significant conversation. On Facebook, it may help to make lists of priority friends and then to follow up with them more often.

  13. Larry Brauner on April 26th, 2011 8:28 pm

    I agree, Buddy, and Facebook lists can help you to prioritize your home page and target your posts.

  14. Ryan Johnson on April 26th, 2011 11:48 pm

    I think there’s a major disconnect between how people who use social networking sites with professional/commercial ambitions and those who use social networking sites for social reasons.

    It’s a lot like the book Facundo: Civilization & Barbarianism where civilization is under siege by the barbarians of the pampas who aim to bend civilization for their barbaric/selfish gains.

    It used to be called social media because people could share media and a social dialog would follow. Now social networking is the hot term because commercial/professional interests want to skew the dialog into making people believe it is for networking.

    Kind of funny how the word “network” can be taken in two entirely different contexts. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to my group of friends as a network, but I often refer to my group of associates and business peers as my network in the “Your NetWORK is your NetWORTH” kind of way.

    But social users see the whole field in a much different way and professionals are always trying to undermine that understanding by positioning themselves at the gate explaining “This is how you use twitter” to introduce them to that social network in a certain kind of way.

    However, that doesn’t really jive with what they were expecting so they have this fragmented understanding that is half their own and half ingrained by others.

    I think this is why Twitter is just a mystery to most people and calling it a social networking site is kind of backwards because you don’t follow them because they’re them, you follow them because of what they share.

    In that context I would agree that Twitter isn’t as much of a social networking site as it is a social media site. With 140 characters it limits to what is being shared, not leaving room for gratuitous self promotion which is often a misstep in your average social interaction.

    LinkedIn is what I would consider a social networking site because that’s it’s stated purpose.

    My belief if that Facebook will fall thanks to this spiraling conflict between social users and professional self promoters while other networks define and divide FB’s share.

    As far as real networking goes, I can accomplish more in a week of Meetups than a month of social media jockeying.

    But in either case, in the end we define our network by who and what we decide to allow into it.

  15. John Suddath on April 27th, 2011 8:47 am

    I use Facebook for social connections and LinkedIn for business connections. I belong to several groups on LinkedIn, but i’ve been disappointed how many of them are used only for self promotion rather than any actual exchange of information. I tried the Q&A for awhile and gave up. Perhaps I’m just not persistent enough. I only include a small portion of my Rolex on my Facebook or LinkedIn connections. There are some people, such as my doctors, I only want to connect with for special reasons occasionally.

  16. Anne Wood on April 28th, 2011 6:58 am

    I’ve loved reading everyone’s comments as well as your article, Larry. There’s a huge amount of hype and confusion about social networking/media. I like to think of Facebook and LinkedIn as networks of people I know and twitter as a media of people I’d like to know or learn from (follow).

    I’m choosy about who I follow or connect with as the connection needs to be meaningful. No-one can follow thousands of people (on twitter for example) and learn from them all. So I check profiles and see if we’ve something in common. Same goes for LinkedIn. But I will say that I’ve made some amazing connections via twitter and have learned a whole heap more than I ever would have without it.

    It’s like any relationship - you only get out what you put in.

  17. Larry Brauner on April 28th, 2011 9:17 am

    Thank you Anne. I appreciate your point of view but don’t entirely agree.

    On the Internet, including on social networking sites, findability or visibility is extremely important. You want the right people to be able to find you, and seemingly irrelevant connections can help with that.

    I refer you to two articles which may help:

    1. Findability — Search and Social — and Your Web Presence
    2. 10 Tips for LinkedIn Social Networking (especially #3, #4 and #5)

    However, when you say, “It’s like any relationship - you only get out what you put in,” I totally agree.

  18. 22 Business Networking Tips | Online Social Networking on May 2nd, 2011 8:45 am

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