Effective Networkers Build More Than Bridges

Our networks have become incredibly expansive. Today, we interact globally despite previous geographical barriers. It is a given that we can remain updated about an industry peer met at a conference in London or chat regularly with a relative in Morocco.

Technology in the information age has led to tremendous improvements for our social and business networking. It is, and will continue to be, a fantastic relationship enabler. And as our social expectations increase, technology is adapting to meet those demands.

The Present Social Media Landscape

Technology has been successful at extending our networks far and wide, but it has been less successful at enabling the depth of relationships we also seek. Recent trends show people are sharing less on websites like Facebook indicating a shift away from mass sharing platforms towards increasingly personal platforms with defined and intimate audiences, such as Snapchat or Instagram.

With all social media, users turn to a computer or mobile device to share information that can be viewed by their networks. We can like, comment, or share, but it is not necessary for two parties to be present at the same time to exchange information. As a result, people are maintaining these arms-length networks, but also looking to harness technology for more meaningful connections. Factors such as touch, tone, and shared experiences are human-to-human interactions that online social media cannot replace.

Social Networking and Social Capital

To understand how social networking technology is evolving, first consider why humans build and use their networks. Our networks impact our social standing and our ability to enjoy a higher quality of life. Sociologists refer to the beneficial and purposive power of relationships and interconnectivity as social capital. Both sociologists and psychologists have leveraged this concept of social capital to develop two different categories: bridging and bonding.

Bridging social capital refers to social networks that allow different groups to share and exchange information, ideas, and innovation. The groups represent diverse interests with interactions that are often superficial, coming together only when needed. On the other hand, bonding social capital refers to relationships between like-minded people who interact frequently and build strong ties.

Dr. Larry Rosen of the Washington Post writes that the connections we form over social media largely consist of bridging social capital while those we cultivate in the real world constitute bonding social capital.

Social media creates an interface between the people as a bridge: human → social media platform (bridge) ← human. Technology is adapting to get the platform out of the middle by tapping into the expansiveness of digital social networking while creating the conditions for both bridging and the more intimate prerequisites of building bonding social capital.

So, how can technology improve the way we meet people? Suppose you are attending an event and wish to network, but do not know who to talk to. Walking up to a random stranger and beginning a conversation is not always welcomed. New phone-to-phone discovery technology is offering the information, confidence, and opportunity for people to meet the right people at the right time.

The MeetVibe app lets you view the profile of others in your direct proximity providing the information about who they are and what they want to talk about. Because they have set their profile to Public it is viewable giving you the confidence to know they are open to meeting new people – now. Proximity technology ensures you are only being alerted to people who are nearby and accessible, giving you the opportunity to connect.

This type of bridging technology enables direct human ↔ human bridging for social interaction.

Successful networkers know that it is not enough to just collect contact information.

And technology is advancing to provide us with the seamless instant access to the people who matter most.

Calendar availability viewing means we can see instantly when others are available to come together. Now, friends, family, and colleagues will only suggest times when we are actually free. No more wasting time on the back and forth of scheduling.

We call this creating social synergies: social technology providing optimizing solutions to achieve more with fewer resources. Focus on the interaction to make the most of your time!

Our current generation of social media and social networking has done a terrific job of building our networks wider and now technology is also taking us deeper into building meaningful relationships.

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Also published on Medium.