The 4 C’s of Catalytic Connections

Some of the best social media advice I’ve heard came from David Jay at SoCAP09: “Don’t just talk about yourself, talk about the world and show that you’re listening.”

Here are 4 simple ways to start:

  • Compliment. Affirmation has always been a powerful social currency. RTs, comments, track-backs and diggs have put flexible, convenient new denominations at our fingertips. Spend freely! Look for reasons to congratulate, to thank, to encourage and to acknowledge to efforts and contributions of others.
  • Critique. Obviously not as easy or as fun as the previous option, thoughtful criticism (carefully given) can build even deeper, more active social capital.
  • Coordinate. Connecting individuals and organizations with potentially synergistic interests/objectives/resources etc. can be rewarding in so many ways. A simple introduction can inspire loyalty and the oh-so-valuable (sometimes even sub-conscious) desire to reciprocate.
  • Collaborate. Taking time to understand someone’s thoughts/ideas enough to actually build on them is a significant investment–one not commonly made in today’s information-saturated world. Don’t underestimate the potential impact of the effort.

The obvious corollary to this sort of strategy is that it’s not the world you’ll be listening to. The world is too big, too loud for anyone to really listen to. Listen to your tribe, that self-selected sub-population you want to lead. Get to know them, engage, and reap the benefits.

Who knows, with all this engaged listening, you might just learn something.

Becoming an Agnostic

Question from an application I recently completed: “[fantastic mentoring organization] attracts leaders from a wide range of fields: traditional non-profit, social entrepreneurship, traditional for-profit, public service, and academia. What sector do you most closely associate yourself with?”

This question comes up a lot–in my opinion, more than it should.

I have started describing myself as “sector agnostic,” a term I first heard in a presentation by David Bornstein. It’s not merely a matter of semantics, either. For years, we’ve talked about and worked to move past the “silo-ing” that wastes resources, squelches collaboration, and limits the impact of all kinds of organizations–businesses, non-profits, agencies, and departments alike.

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths any social entrepreneur (or intrapreneur) can offer is an ability and commitment to “associate closely” with ALL these sectors; to take lessons, adapt best practices, seek inspiration and integrate principles from each of these traditionally segregated arenas to get beyond the semantics and the status quo and focus on solutions.

So what does that look like? How do you recognize a sector agnostic?

I think there are some subtle cues: Their circle of friends and mentors is wide and varied…so is the magazine selection on their coffee table. The examples and stories they bring up in conversation come from everywhere and nowhere, yet they always end up relevant. You might even find yourself stumbling as you describe their work; “well, technically…” But they never seem to.  In fact, you seldom hear them using neat conceptual handles at all. Labels just don’t stick with them. All they seem to think and talk about is what works.

The world looks pretty different as a  sector agnostic. And I like it.

Networking 2.0 : "Tools to Put More In"

Nathaniel Whitmore of Change.org blogged this week about a next-generation approach to networking. He concluded by describing social media platforms and utilities as “tools to put more in.” Thought I’d pick up where he left off with a few thoughts about how

LinkedIn: Write reviews. Be generous in your acknowledgment of others strengths, accomplishments and contributions to your success.

Twitter: RTs and mentions are a valuable form of social currency–spend liberally.

Blogs: Do more than just read–even simple comments, 1-click tweets, diggs, or trackbacks can help boost a contact’s credibility and profile. Keep in mind the 4 Cs to help build authentic online conversations.

Facebook: Here again, small is beautiful. Use Fb Share buttons to promote good content, go ahead and become a fan of someone’s venture…who knows, you might just find a legitimate use for that “suggest a friend” function.

It may come as a revelation to some of the “wired generation,” but networking doesn’t actually require a URL. Some of the best connections, and the best contributions, you can make still happen the old fashioned way–face to face.

  • When meeting someone for the first time, make it a goal to ask three meaningful questions before saying anything about yourself.
  • Build a mental ‘map’ of the space you live and work in. Pay special attention to the gaps, places where you might be able to facilitate connections.
  • When you receive a business card, take a moment to note one ‘gift’ you could give that person–an introduction email you could write, a link you could pass along, even a book you could recommend (or send).

Above all, be sincere. To borrow from Nathaniel again, today’s networking is all about building layers of connection and reciprocity…less transaction, more legitimate network.