Here is what my lived experience is of the social norms around networking and connections online:
- Share often
- Reference and give credit to others
- Participate in conversation
- Use consistent themes
I started to realize that this was a way of thinking that was very isolating and individually centric. Strategies, if you will, that seem less like norms and more how to get people to follow YOUR information. I propose that there are underlying themes, norms, that we really do follow online, that aren’t on this list. Every wonder why they seem so hard to execute? Additionally, actually utilizing the vast research and information on networks serves as a better angle to observe community and strategize on how to build it.
I’d like to introduce a few concepts that I invite you to utilize further in your own assessment and application:
Density (highest number of connections of those possible) – Helps ensure diversity, robustness, and shared norms.
Centrality (least distance, number of intermediaries, from all possible connections) – Minimizes delay in flow of information.
Hub, weaver, broker, or boundary spanner (Connecting fragments, strengthening week ties, negotiating trades, and creating new connections respectively) – There are many roles to play in the process of building community. You need to value each and know what role you can play.
“Weaving a network requires two iterative and continuous steps:
- Know the network – take regular x-rays of your network and evaluate your progress.
- Knit the network
Starting with a disconnected community, network builders can start weaving together the necessary skills and resource”
~Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving
True community building behaviors:
- Make introductions
- Pass resources not always to everyone, but to specific people
- Increase interconnections within your existing network first, be the leader of density creation
- Know your neighbors network and make their network your network, building centrality.
- Identify and advertise unique community resources, not just yourself
- Seek out different opinions from your periphery. “Connect on your similarity, and profit from your diversity” ~Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving
Be weary of data describing online networks that focus on individual interactions. Macro-trends, -norms, and -groupings will serve in building influence much better. The great thing is that the social media provides some of the first opportunities to measure network building real-time. Know of any tools that “go macro?”