For the record, I’m a HUGE advocate of leveraging social media for professional development and making connections with other educators. The network that I’ve built over the last few years is so very important to me, both professionally and personally.
But the keyword in that last sentence is “BUILT.” I’ve spent time building a network of people who are of value to me. A lot of time, actually.
I was thinking about something my friend, Jennifer Wagner tweeted out yesterday. By the way, I have never met Jen face-to-face. We have Skyped- a few years ago, she was gracious enough to call into a session I was facilitating about web tools- and we have conversed through Twitter and blog posts, but we have yet to meet in person. (Hope to change that status some day soon!) The point is… I still consider her a friend. She is helpful, responsive, sharing, and caring. This will be an important fact later in this post.
Yesterday, Jen said this in response to someone’s statement about the value of online communities:
… and I remembered then that the network/community that I so value now has taken me nearly 2.5 years to purposefully cultivate. When we share our enthusiasm with others, do we mention the time investment? How many people do you think would be willing to wait that long for the pay off?
Granted, there are some great ways to get started building a network- many have paved the way and want to help make it easier. Some examples:
I built my network through reading blogs, following blog writers on Twitter, finding who they follow, and then stalking lurking through Twitter for a while until I found the people who became of value to me. When I was a kid, there was a commercial about shampoo where one person told two friends, and they told two friends, and they told two friends… I use that same philosophy with blogs and Twitter. When I first started following others on blogs and Twitter, I looked to see who my friends were following, and I started following them, too.
The most important thing you can remember about building a network… be patient. And then:
- Involve yourself.
- Complete your bio on your own blog and/or Twitter (this is a must! Most people I know don’t follow people with empty bio’s. We want to know who are you and what you think!)
- Jump into conversations on Twitter.
- Read and comment on blogs.
- Know that you’re probably not going to get immediate responses from around the world until you’ve invested some time. A lot of people get disappointed because they don’t receive a lot of comments on their blog posts or responses on Twitter after they first start using those tools. It really does take some time.
And that’s okay… because you WILL find value in that network or community you’ve helped to build. Soon, those people whose names cross your Twitter stream or whose blog posts you’ve been reading… they become valued friends who will be glad to share, listen, and learn with you.