An example of a social network diagram. From the Wikipedia posting: "Social Network"
So, Ford Harding told me yesterday that he hasn't seen any evidence yet of social networking sites actually working in AEC business development, with one possible exception. That is, a Rainmaker uses the sign up and introduction process within the social networking system to create a touch point to renew or establish acquaintanceship -- with the goal of seeing if there is further opportunity going forward.
Why does this work? I'll speculate that at the entry point -- either when you first join the social networking site, or when you introduce someone to it -- you have a heightened awareness of the process and receptiveness for input, ideas and relationships. When you first join, if you already know people within the community, you find/meet and relate to people who may validly be in your network but have lost touch with. And when you are invited to join, then you have a moment of awareness about the person who invited you -- all as good if not better networking opportunities than the conventional meet-and-greet, phone, or writing/emailing channels.
Harding however also said he doesn't see much value in 'connections' such as offered by linkedin.com, where theoretically you can connect to someone through an intermediary you both know (but when you don't know the person you are trying to meet.) Harding says he ignores requests of this sort through his own network -- he implies there simply isn't enough trust and knowledge to risk the consequence of burning a solid connection with an invalid referral.
However, Harding also indicates that social networking may work well for a few people at the very top of the power curve (see previous posting) -- although he seems to have a wide network on linkedin.com (with more than 200 names in his contact base), he doesn't consider himself to be a star in this area -- with people who have thousands of contacts on file. Again, I wonder, as must Harding, how anyone can really relate, know, and understand thousands of personal connections on these networking sites. But I'm not 25 years old any more -- and I have trouble recognizing people right under my nose!