The desire to feel connected is a basic human instinct. People do most things electronically, so why not nurture online relationships just as one would in person?
Associations, whether close or peripheral, allow people to form personal bonds, expand professional networks, and gain a general sense of connection and purpose. With advances in technology as well as changes in how and when business is conducted, the world has become increasingly interconnected.
People are plugged in 24/7. They have the ability to check email on mobile devices, make phone calls on the way to the office, and send texts to family and friends. In recent years, this need to create and maintain connections has spilled over onto the web in the form of social networking.
For some, an online network is nothing more than a collection of two-dimensional entities. Rather than creating solid relationships with these virtual “friends”, they simply form an online-based community of contacts. They can then draw on these contacts when conducting a job search or simply keep them in their network should they need to reach out in the future.
Others utilize these networking resources to maintain ties with those around them. They may add colleagues, former managers, or close friends to their online profile pages. Pursuing relationships both in-person and online often strengthens connections and allows these relationships to exist on a number of different levels.
However people choose to use them, networking sites provide a convenient way to communicate and conduct business. Using the various mediums available demonstrates one’s ability to work within the fast-paced, ever-evolving modern work environment.
But what has caused the general public to become so fascinated with networking and creating online connections? Perhaps it’s comparable to the reality TV phenomenon. When the concept of broadcasting “reality” was still relatively new, shows at the beginning of the curve became quite successful. Similar programs were soon to follow, riding on the coattails of that popularity and success.
And so it is with social networking websites. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest – the list seems endless. The number of users on these sites is growing right alongside the number of networking avenues available.
There are many advantages to using social networking, be it for personal or professional reasons.
Social Networking Websites Provide a Non-threatening Way to Communicate
Networking from the comfort of one’s office or home computer takes the pressure off speaking to new people. Many don’t have the desire or confidence to build a relationship with people they don’t know very well. Communicating online allows them to think about what they want to say and how they want to approach a contact. Since they aren’t speaking face-to-face, they are less likely to be hesitant in reaching out or requesting information. They can set up an in-person meeting once they become more comfortable.
Networking Websites Offer Accessibility and Flexibility
Whether people are online or not, social networking sites are always working. People can receive and respond to messages at any time, day or night. This is especially important when communicating with co-workers who are on different schedules (enter workplace flexibility), or working with colleagues or clients internationally.
Networking sites also allow people to view the connections of those in their network. While meeting friends’ or colleagues’ connections in-person can be difficult, it is easy to send an invitation online or have an acquaintance suggest that you get in touch with someone they know.
A Wide Variety of Social Networking Options are Available
There are many options to choose from when it comes to picking a networking portal. People who want to post their professional accomplishments and past work experience can log on to LinkedIn. There they can re-connect with former colleagues or seek out contacts of those in their network.
Those on a mission for a more personal experience may choose to open a Twitter or Facebook account. On these websites they can find family members, friends, or former classmates. They can uncover an abundance of information and pictures, and easily access profile updates.
It’s important to note that there is a lot of crossover when it comes to using social networking sites. The line between personal and professional becomes blurred when so much information can be found online. People may have colleagues who double as friends, and for that reason they end up on multiple networks. Anyone from potential employers to potential mates may be able to access this information, so it’s crucial that one is careful when they post information online.
These days the majority of people are plugged in. For the computer and/or mobile device-savvy, social networking is just another way to use technology to maintain relationships and stay connected.