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Janet Garcia


Director of UK And International

Read more about Janet Garcia

Blog: When to use social networks or personal networking?


Most of us have understood the importance of networking to leadership for a long time, but the recent appointment of Julia Hobsbawm by Cass Business School as the world’s first “Professor of Networking” makes it official.

I listened to an interview with Hobsbawm on Radio 4 last week and it was what she had to say about the difference between social networks and personal networking that struck a chord. 
She reminded listeners that information shared over social networks is public and available to all of your competitors, whereas personal networking and conversations shared are private. These two forms of networking therefore serve very different purposes.
The presenter pointed out that the word “networking” had acquired a bit of a grubby feel, evoking salespeople pressing business cards into palms and trying to close deals.
But the truth is that in the touch-screen world in which we live, there is no “app” that gives you the ability to make valuable connections, find common ground and develop trust and a bond with people.
For the 21st Century Leader, a presence on social media is important but it does not replace the value of a strong personal network. In the real world it still matters “who you know”, not just what you post on Facebook.
As you can tell from the fact that I have a blog, or my profile on LinkedIn, the truth is I that am a heavy advocate of both forms of networking – if used appropriately. So, I wanted to share my guide on how the two differ and how to behave through both:
Social Networks vs. Personal Networking
Quantitative vs Qualitative 
Social media is all about gaining more followers, friends or connections, but apply that same rationale to personal networking and you’re in trouble. Scientists think we can only cope with about 150 true, emotional connections in our lives, so it’s better to focus on the quality of individual conversations and relationships, not the quantity. 
Objective vs Subjective
Usually social media identities are censored, politically correct and clean. You should use social networks to share and assimilate quality information through a strong personal brand. Never get too political or controversial, as once it’s on Twitter the whole world can quote you, forever.
Conversely, if you were to present a squeaky clean “social media style” persona to colleagues and peers face-to-face, they’d quickly find it frustrating. Personal networking requires a more opinionated, subjective view of the world. You can share with others what you all really think in a more intimate setting.  
Shareable vs Sacred
The aim on social networks is to post “shareable” content which could be of interest (or amusement), rather than inane details of one’s life. For this reason, it is usually positive in nature. No-one posts pictures of themselves on Facebook in which they “look a bit fat.”
But when trying to establish a personal connection and common ground, the aim is the opposite. You can make others privy to more private details and share what went wrong, as well as what went right. 
Faceless vs In your face
Counter-intuitively, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks can often be rather faceless. More and more people post under pseudonyms and aliases. Who on earth is @jgarciax? My friends know me as Janet.
On the other hand, in personal networking, body language, chemistry and maybe a glass of wine all come into play. We recall relationships by smell and touch as much as by sight, so remember that personal networking really is “in your face.”
A few months ago somebody asked me which form of networking I considered more important in business and for personal career development. In answering I considered both the past and the future. Personal networking has been around in a similar form for hundreds of years. 
Social media, whilst here to stay, will probably be almost unrecognisable in fifteen years’ time.  Trying to predict what social media will look like in the future, one business analyst recently said: "The only one thing I can say with complete certainty is what ends up happening is not something that anyone is predicting.”
So whilst it’s important to have a presence and know how to use all the latest tools, if you have to choose whether to prioritise learning the art of conversation or learning how to use TweetAdder, I would recommend the former. I still believe the modern leader is judged more on his or her ability to make real life connections than those online.

Janet Garcia is director of UK and international at elearning and talent management software provider, MindLeaders.

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One Response

  1. nice article

    People need to be very careful about what they post on the internet nowadays. Whether its on your personal social media profile or through a professional platform, it is wise to just be aware of who can see your posts. It is difficult for employers especially to separate the perception that your professional and personal network may give off because they don’t want to employ someone who can tarnish the image of their company. If you have got something to hide, change your facebook account settings and you should be fine…


    — Dave Evans, commercial director at accessplanit, specialising in training administration software and learning management system.

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Janet Garcia

Director of UK And International

Read more from Janet Garcia

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