How to Create a Social Network that isn’t Phony

Networking has undergone many transformations over the years, and has now reached a sort of zenith in tandem with the Web 2.0. Before, networking simply meant hobnobbing with industry insiders, perhaps at conferences, perchance over cocktails. Now, with the advent and burgeoning popularity of social media, networking is nothing short of an intricate science, one in which we add and quantify “friends” and “connections.” We hear tips on how to network ad nauseam on the Internet. Indeed, whole blogs are devoted entirely to this one subject. But since networking, at its most basic level, involves people–with all their unpredictability and personal quirks and emotions and passions–then surely networking is also an art. Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, perhaps most cogently brings home the idea that networking is about people in a recent Fortune article. It may seem strange to remind ourselves that networking involves people.  But at the same time, how easily is the fact forgotten, when we may have thousands of friends whom we hardly know, when these social networking sites form loci where other, non-social transactions occur, like buying furniture and finding jobs?

Networking Begins at Home

Hoffman explains in his interview that networking starts essentially at home. If you are looking to build a truly genuine network, then log off from your Facebook profile and think about your closest ties—your friends, family, co-workers, or anybody you see on a daily basis. These ties are what Hoffman calls “alliances,” close collaborators for whom you would gladly do personal favors, and who would in turn, gladly “get your back” as well. It is from these alliances that a more extended network springs. Following alliances are the people with whom you have weaker ties, those who you are friendly with but see only on special occasions. These, too, have an important role to play.

Now of course, this isn’t to say that LinkedIn or Facebook are useless. They both provide springboards for genuine networking. But even the founder of LinkedIn emphasizes the importance of meeting people in person and learning to engage them with conversation that transcends shop talk.

In my own reading of Hoffman’s work, the most important lessons about genuine networking I’ve learned are these—you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes. You must start with the idea that you are going to help other people first. Of course, there will always be an aspect of self-interest in networking. But self-interest should never be your starting point. Secondly, you must realize that effective networking is more than just adding and liking. Networking, just like a garden, must be tended consistently if it is to grow and flourish.

Whether you are an entrepreneur seeking funding for your Big Idea, or you’re a freelance blogger looking for a gig, or you simply want to widen your reach socially and professionally, every minute of your day is a chance to further your influence. Call a family friend you haven’t talked to in awhile. Ask for an introduction to someone whose career choices you would like to pursue. Go out of your way to do a favor for someone else. Above all, put yourself out there, converse, shake hands, and, most importantly, mean it.


Katheryn Rivas often writes on the topic of online universities and welcomes any direct contact at her email address:



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