It’s all about the groundwork
It was James Governor who coined the term “social bridgebuilder”, in response to my musings about what it is I do with all this social media. Here’s a good example of what I like to do: I enjoy connecting people.
One of the things about blogging is that good bloggers take the time to engage in conversations, explore the blogosphere, and make new connections. Read widely, read outside of your “subject area”, comment and establish new acquaintances. Sometimes, just click through to that linked article for the sake of broadening your interest. If it does strike a chord, comment and let the author know you liked it.
Probably about 18 months ago I randomly connected with Heidi Hansen… I’m fairly sure it was via Plazes, now I think about it, but I can’t really remember the reason… I started reading her blog, commenting on posts that I found interesting, and we’ve subsequently become friends through a multitude of different connections in social networks. We’re in very different spheres, both professionally and geographically, but it is one of those connections that I’m glad I’ve been able to make.
A couple of weeks ago, Heidi contacted me to ask whether I had any ideas about areas of possible research into social networking and social software. As it happens, I have been involved in a number of research studies over the past couple of years, both inside and outside of IBM, so we got to talking about things that might be worth exploring. I was also able to recommend a number of good folks that I thought it would be worth her following, such as my colleagues Jasmin Tragas and Sacha Chua (sidenote: if I ever get around to updating my blogroll, I’m sure Heidi would find a bunch of others!).
At the same time, I realised that Sacha and Heidi would probably have a whole lot in common. I know Sacha through blogs, both internally and externally at IBM… Sacha is one of those people who is impossible to ignore, and a lot of IBMers will have encountered her infectious enthusiasm, particularly inside our firewall :-) I also knew she had recently finished studying herself, so it seemed like a natural connection to make. I pinged Sacha on Sametime and dropped her an email to follow-up.
Without realising it, I’d pointed Heidi at Sacha only days before she was due to travel to Toronto, where Sacha is based.
Result? I was able to connect two friends I’ve never met, for a real-world meeting in Toronto last week… and it sounds like it was a successful encounter. With a couple of emails, Twitters and IMs, a new connection was made.
Why is social software valuable?
This isn’t about the “dollar value of a transaction”. A lot of folks seem to want to know what financial benefit they can gain from engaging in these new social media.
I’ve no idea whether Heidi will buy IBM software in the future as a result of knowing me (actually, I’m pretty certain she won’t, but who knows where the world will take her!). The point is that I’m enriching my own network by knowing her, and by knowing Sacha, and tapping into their skills and expertise; and of course my own network and knowledge is completely open to either of them. I don’t know what dollar value to place on that; but I know that to me, the personal connections and friendships I build using these social tools are invaluable.