The value of networking through social media


When I was a young man of 23, I learned the value of social networking. I was invited by a fellow businessman in town to join him for lunch with a group of other businessmen who belonged to the local installation of a national organization. I need not name the organization since doing so would do nothing to make my point. I soon learned that to belong to this organization you had to be a local businessman, you had to have financial resources to make a contribution to the organization, you had to be available for lunch/meetings every Thursday, you had to be willing to devote time to fulfill the goals of the organization, but most importantly you had to be sponsored by a current member of the group to join. Up to that day, I met every requirement except for the last one. It wasn’t until someone from inside the group invited me “in” that I met all of the requirements for membership. Once I was part of the group new opportunities came my way as my personal social network expanded.

The Internet provided the means of social media networking in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until the introduction of Web 2.0 technologies such as high speed Internet that social media networking began to exponentially grow. Geocities, Tripod, and SixDegrees were early social media networking sites. In-between then and now were successful sites such as MySpace and Friendster. Today Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, Vimeo, and Pinterest are experiencing phenomenal growth and provide the engine that drives much of modern social media networking. People today do more searches using social media than Google. They also spend more time with social media than using email or most any other online activity. In other words, social media are important regardless of your age, profession, or socioeconomic status.

Unfortunately, there are always naysayers when it comes to assessing the true value of new technology. This has been true of social media networking too. This is usually because the know-it-alls and naysayers lack the ability to figure out how to use new technologies to create new opportunities and solve long-standing problems. For example, I used to try to keep in touch with many of the students I have taught over the years through email, and I became frustrated by the constantly changing email addresses and bounce backs of non-deliverable emails. Then I discovered that many—and today most all—of my alumni were on Facebook. Now I could keep current with their professional and personal updates, and I no longer had to worry about keeping their contact information current. It was all right there in their profile. Problem solved with social media.

I joined LinkedIn a few years later to create a professional brand that would be different in its appearance and purpose from that of my Facebook account. I wanted to connect with other educators and media professionals. I started connecting with people I knew firsthand, and then I asked others to introduce me to other members that they knew who shared similar interests. I joined several groups that interested me, and I was able to connect with many new members that way. In a short time my network had expanded to over 700 connections (of the first tier), and the total network was tens-of-thousands more. A few years ago I was an academic dean for a private college in Florida, and I often assisted students with finding internships across the country and around the world. One student in particular was having a difficult time finding an opportunity. That evening I logged into my LinkedIn account and went to work. Since I could sort my connections by industry and by geography, I was able to find a few media professionals near where the student lived. Sure, they were going to have to drive a few miles each day, but the valuable experience they would gain would far outweigh a few bucks for gas. Again, a problem solved with social media.

Each one reading this could probably share some insight about how they have leveraged the power of social media networking for the functional, social, and entertainment needs in their personal and professional lives. Unlike that group I joined when I was 23, today’s social media networks readily welcome new members, and what’s more, they are not bound by geographic and socioeconomic barriers. No matter whom you are or what part of the planet you live on you can easily connect with others people of similar interests. The only limitation on social media networks today is your own imagination of how best to use them.


About the Author:

Dr. John Weidert is an independent educator, communicator, and practitioner of educational and organizational leadership, communication, and media studies.