Monday, November 9, 2009

Social Networking: People Collector or People Connector?

Are you a people collector or people connector? That is the question. Over the past few weeks, I have taken a serious look at how some people use social media. Since the release of Twitter lists, the emphasis on follower and friend numbers seems to be an issue.

There are some that discourage large followings, while others seek it out. In this article, I talk about the power of numbers and how to act responsibly. To meet this goal, I will first introduce you to a couple of friends that have mastered the art of networking; second, we will identify similarities between them; and third, I will share some tips on how to strengthen your networking prowess.

The Go-to-Guy
In February 2007, I made a move to the Raleigh-Durham area. My experience in web development, along with an MBA, led me into an IT Management position at North Carolina Central University. Within the first few days, I was introduced to a guy that appeared to be well connected.

For starters, he lived on the cell phone. Every time I saw the guy, he was briskly walking to some unknown destination with a phone stuck to his head. I thought this guy must be extremely important if people kept calling him.


In time, I found that the phone was often used in both directions. He made just as many calls as he received. To my surprise, many of the calls were not for him, but rather on behalf of someone else. On a number of occasions, I became the subject of a call or two and felt indebted by his ability to get things done.

It seems that whatever I needed, I could find through Roger Daniel. It's not that Roger was McGyver or anything, but when it came to networking, Roger seemed to have a connection for everything.

Even now, I still ask myself, "What would Roger do in this situation?" How might I be the next go-to-guy?

The Cosmopolitan

During my undergraduate years at Elizabeth City State University, I became friends with a guy who knew everyone. It did not matter the city or state, wherever we went he seemed to know someone. Not only did he know them, but they knew him.

Watching him work, I found that he would spark a conversation with anyone. The skill became quite handy for us when it included those introductions with the opposite sex. As a result, Ronel Brewer has since earned a healthy number of friends, fans, and followers. It seems that wherever Ronel goes, the masses go as well.

The Entrepreneur
Another friend I met in college is known for his ability to build things through an extended network of friends. From the moment he stepped on campus to the time he left to embrace his greatness, Omari Salisbury had a natural gift for grand ideas and executing them with style. I can recall campus-wide celebrations, successful business ventures, and early multimedia projects that helped to define him as a great business man, motivator, and leader.

From a distance, I watched him expand his list of supporters to include campus leaders, faculty, staff, and administrators. It seemed as though he could do and build anything he wanted.

After graduation, he took those wings and flew higher. One day he is in Seattle hosting a huge party with celebrities and then the next day he is in Tanzania building an empire. While Omari is a very intelligent guy, he also understands his limitations. As a result, he continues to find and work with some of the worlds most talented individuals. For him, the sky is the limit.

What Is The Common Denominator?
Looking at each of the aforementioned individuals, we find that each one has a gift working with people. My mother used to say I was a people person, but Roger, Ronel, Omari, and a childhood friend named James Shaw all possess that skill times ten. Each one knows how to make an introduction and maintain relationships over thousands of miles.

In addition, I have come to find that each one has a huge network of friends, colleagues, and contacts that is nurtured over time. At any moment, they could rally the masses into action. This is a power that many aspire to wield.

People Collector or People Connector

People Collector
Through observation, I see a number of social media users race to grow their number of followers, friends, readers, and fans. To many, this number represents success, riches, happiness, and fulfillment. The short-sighted goal of attracting more people for the sake of attracting more people seems empty and cold.

People collecting, as my friend Janine once termed it, is the act of gathering people for the purpose of show them off. "Look how many friends I have!" is something a people collector might say.

People Connector
On the other hand, we have individuals that seek to serve and help others by employing their resources. In the case of social networking, we are talking about being a router. My friend Thomas termed the word "router" as one who has the connection to get things done. Tell a router that you have car problems and within seconds they are on the phone calling an automobile mechanic for assistance.

Not only do they call a mechanic, but they practically deliver the mechanic to your front door. Once on a mission, the router does not stop until your need is met.

Being a people connector is something I seek to become one day. By nature, I am not thinking about connections unless specifically asked. Often, a router is on the phone before you can even form the request for help.

The Path To Connection
To become a people connector, consider the following suggestions:

Be Sincere

Find it within yourself to help others without seeking a reward. If possible, do something nice without disclosing where the good deed originated. In the end, you will grow a habit of helping from the heart, not from the pocket book or treasure chest.

Connect With People When You Need Nothing
Maintaining relationships with people is important. Make it a point to call or visit your friends on a regular basis. Even if you have nothing exciting to say, find out how someone else is doing. Remember, it is not about you.

Be Consistent
While the drama of life may change from day to day, do your best to remain consistent. Build on good habits to become better, but continue to do those positive things that people need.

Be Ready to Act When Called Upon
The call to action can come at any time. Routers are available even when it is least convenient. Therefore, be prepared to lend a helping hand and act swiftly to see it through.

Keep Your Word
Your word is your bond. If you say you will do something, then be certain you do it. Trust takes time to built, but only moments to lose. Therefore, remember a quote from Omari, "A honest no is much better than a doubtful yes."

Let's Talk About It

In this article we looked at the difference between people collectors and people connectors. What experiences have you had interacting with these types of people? What other tips would you recommend to those seeking to be a router versus just a collector?

Let's get together in the comment section below.

Until next time...

Image via Helios89

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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