“Traditional” Meat-Space Networking Models and the “New World”

“Traditional” Meat-Space Networking Models and the “New World”

If you stick around long enough, you wind up being a “joiner.”

You know – you join the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the local Football Boosters, become a Brownie Leader, a Den Mom, a Pack leader, a Baseball Coach, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Some things you join by dint of merely “being.” Your family, for example – the “ur” social network.

Other groups you join because you want something: better access to potential clients, being around people who are like minded, hopping on the proverbial band wagon of a popular sports team (you Detroit Red Wings fans – I’m talkin’ to you).

In all “traditional” groups in the meat-space (the “real” world) you are encouraged or incentivized to participate through a series of rewards and punishments: the perfect attendance certificate at the end of a course, the fines incurred if you miss too many civic club meetings, the five bucks you owe to the Sargent-At-Arms if you don’t wear your group pin.

It seems to me that a significant component missing in most existing Social Networks (the “new” world as it were) is the idea of concrete rewards and punishment for participating (or NOT participating).

When I find myself speaking with a social media neophyte or outsider, I can almost see the words “what’s in it for me” rolling up in their eyeballs. Sure – wasting time on Facebook and Twitter can be fun – but what GOOD is it to me from a business standpoint? Not everyone is a blogger or an affiliate marketer or a knowledge worker.

In short, what is the payoff for participating in social networks, and as a corollary, what are the consequences of NOT participating?

For so much lip service paid online to “engagement”, I find in practice that very little actual engagement ever occurs online. I don’t consider trading quippy barbs with online “friends” as being engaging, though it is very pleasant to do so – at least for me.

What I’m talking about is developing those relationships online that turn into ENGAGEMENTS – the virtual equivalent of the friend who will help you move for a six -pack of beer and a pizza, the friend who will take you to the airport on their day off, or take you to task when you’ve made an ass of yourself, at the risk of losing financially. THAT kind of engagement.

As I see it, as a group, members of online communities need to translate thought and words into action: ask for the order, commit to perform, get out of your chair and DO.

It is my belief that until online social networking can provably demonstrate concrete benefits for participation that in the long run they will fail.

As a practical experiment today, go out and find someone who is not actively online and try to convince them of the benefits of joining an online community – in a way that translates into more business for them and in a way that convinces them that by doing so it is a force multiplier and not a time waster.

Would love to hear how this goes.

3 thoughts on ““Traditional” Meat-Space Networking Models and the “New World”

  1. Great post. I think we too often think about “what’s in it for me” in physical forms (money, food, money) and underestimate the power of thought. Wrapped up in our own world, we forget the value that another world view, thought process, or information can add to our life. Relationships jar us out of our own thoughts which orbit around in our head. Sometimes this means we have to ask new questions, or think new thoughts, which can be uncomfortable — but are generally rewarding. That to me, is the power of on-line social networking. Glad to be an evangelist.


  2. David,

    While it’s true that the hundreds of people that I interact with on a weekly basis online are, for the most part, not real engagements, there are exceptions. When I was jsut starting out using AIM, I met a man who, 3 years later is still a friend. Fred and I have never met, and do not even live in the same state, but I consider us close friends and I talk to him more than I talk to some of my friends here in Nashville. My point is that it IS possible to develop real friendships purely online and once you do, the reqards and punishments that exist in meat-space translate. (If I don’t talk to Fred often, we start to drift apart, etc.)



  3. What a surprise to pop in and find a comment from friend-I’ve-never-met Cal. When I deconstructed the seeming coincidence, I realized how this blog got in my reader — from following Cal on Twitter and exploring the neighborhood. It’s interesting to me that with all the mutual social networks Cal and I belong to, we communicate mostly through IM, email, and twitter. Three years of private quips and general smartassery have developed to the point where I would move his furniture for beer, were I in the same state. True, it hasn’t resulted in dollars, but if projects and planets align, it might, and I have gone to the post office for him a few time, which is something I only do for family members and utility companies. As for the notion of rewards and punishments, I wonder if that would create an artificial hierarchy that would discourage finding genuine connections. Translating participation in social networks into concrete benefits, I agree, is needed. So far I’ve seen it work to some degree for authors and musical artists. Businesses, not so much. But I think Jake at Community Guy put out a call for examples a little while ago. Maybe hell get something.


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