Erik Qualman’s newest book, ‘What Happens in Vegas, Stays on YouTube’ wrote “Those who succeed develop deep relationships before they need those relationships. They network before they need the network both offline and online.”
Over the last couple months I have had the opportunity to attend a number of functions within the field of student affairs. Over the last year I have been intentionally building my networks through online means, such as twitter, blogging and taking informal conversations through google hangouts.
It is blowing my mind the power of networks, both online and in-person. Let me give you a recent example and challenge you to start thinking of your own, when the power of your network can turn into a life long (and changing) connection.
I met Greg Heiberger as fellow college students at South Dakota State University. A few years after graduation he came out with a study with fellow social media in higher education researcher Rey Junco. Since starting my program I have reconnected with Greg, finding out he was in the same research arm as I was being drawn to and I was starting to quote him and Rey like crazy.
Greg and Ed Cabellon had a conversation and recommended that Ed talk to me when he started his doctoral program. Since that conversation, Ed and I hit it off both in research interests, but also in humor and drive.
From Greg I reached out to Rey Junco, who in a very short time has already been a resource and sounding board to me. Between Greg to Rey to Ed to me, all of this sphere starting when I was a college student, when social media didn’t even exist.
Now these three will be constant connections in my professional career.
I have at least a dozen more of these examples. Connections both personal and professional that weave seamlessly together, making me believe in things fate, destiny and all those other light in the sky ideas.
Life working in student affairs is a trip. When combing relationships one makes face to face amplified by digital means for communication, results in our field have nearly zero degrees of separation…and we should celebrate this!
Another quote by Erik Qualman explains the importance of face to face interactions, built from online
“Developing your network requires online and offline interaction. Digital tools are incredible when time and distance are an issue, but you can never replace face-2-face interaction.”
This quote truly came to life for me when having the opportunity to finally meet in person many relationships I originally built purely online. Recently this happened at NASPA and ACPA National conferences. Many times even at a first meeting I felt comfortable enough to go in for a hug. All the formalities were already solidified through twitter convos or Skype conversations.
Networking and branding are changing drastically, for the advantage of those who seek to place value in them, especially using online means. The idea of seven degrees of separation, easily shrinking down to one or two degrees. You can get connected, reach out, ask questions, share opinions and collaborate with individuals unreachable before.
So I present to you a twitter challenge.
Create a list of 10 individuals that you want to build/create a collaborative relationship with, let’s call them your Top Twitter 10 Team. Direct message them to request a Skype or google + hangout for a 30 minute convo. If they don’t follow you (meaning you won’t be able to DM them), see if you can locate their email on their website or blog.
Before this, make a point you are actively supporting, responding and RT their content. This happened with Erik Qualman, who asked me to start writing for him on his blog socialnomics.com. When you cite someone on your own blog, they will find out about it, in a good way!
You may not get all ten. If you are going for big names like Obama, well you may only get one. Be realistic and have a little bit of both. I did this activity in December, I called it my 12 Days of Dissertation (get it, 12 days of Christmas) where I sought to network with 12 professionals in December. I was strategic in reaching out to those that could help inform, support and even challenge my dissertation topic. All but one person I reached out to responded.
What is the next goal you are working toward? Grad school, job change, writing a book? Use this goal to drive the selection of your Twitter 10 Team. Be strategic in what you hope to learn and ask from them. Be respectful of their time, and of course thank them afterward with a handwritten letter.
I have written before about the power of Personal Learning Networks. All the digital resources available for learning such as communities on Google +, Facebook Groups or Twitter Chats. These sources are also priceless in networking. Use digital means as the start to your networking, and set the intention to turn these online connections into face to face.
Because it is in the in-person experiences that these relationships will become even stronger. Like the moment when I first met fellow higher education technology blogger Joe Sabado, going in for a hug only to dramatically spill my large sugar-free vanilla latte on the floor in front of us and nearly on him. This will forever be a laughable moment, instantly humanizing and solidifying our network.
One year ago I maybe had 300 twitter followers and 12 people who subscribed by blog. I didn’t have goals to increase followers or subscribers, but I did set very lofty goals to engage online, through producing consistent and quality content in addition to strategically networking. The happy byproduct has been having more individuals to learn from and connect with on Twitter and more opinions to give me feedback on my blog.
What has been the blessing is not only the networking or connections, but building relationships with colleagues I now consider my friends. The tribe we all hope to build around us, that lift us higher and bring out the best in us.
Challenge yourself to look at Twitter as a powerhouse of possibilities, but take it beyond 140 characters into F2F interactions. This will build your network before you need it and beyond possibilities available before.