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Working Your Network

How do you use the various professional associations, networking organizations, and work groups you participate in?

New York City Company of Friends member Jon Myers, managing partner of Balance Technologies distinguishes between broadcast and directed searches for connections and resources.

Drawing on the research of Duncan Watts at Columbia University, Myers says, "Broadcast searches can produce results, but some may argue this is an inefficient way of conducting a search and disseminating a message. In a directed search, I would utilize a specific contact within that network whom I felt may be involved with or know someone who is the target of my message. The hope is to produce the most direct connection. How does one find the most direct connection?"

Company of Friends membership is required to participate in CoF-related discussions.

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  • Scott Allen

    This is one of the great advantages of open online networking communities vs. face-to-face networking. In an online community like Ryze, Ecademy,, et al., you don't have to engage intermediaries to make connections, and yet you can still do directed searches.

    A lot of people, particularly busy executives, will choose not to participate in these communities because of the openness of access, but that's not a universal truth. I have met a former President of Reliant Energy, the CKO of Ernst & Young, a Managing Director of the Chasm Group, and several executives of British Telecom in these online communities, with no intermediary to make a trusted introduction.

    The determining factor seems to be the risk and time commitment involved. If all I'm trying to do is introduce myself and make some intelligent conversation, I don't need the same level of trust as if I'm approaching them with a direct business proposition.

    The completely open access isn't for everyone, but it does create a sense of community that closed, permission-based systems like LinkedIn and Spoke never seem to develop.

    Furthermore, I'd point out that Duncan Watts' research really highlighted the importance of random connections for collapsing degrees of separation. Very open communities like Ryze support that, while permission-based systems do not. Some of the best contacts I have made were people I just randomly clicked on because their name, picture, or something else about them sparked my curiosity.

    I'd also point another issue -- everyone wants to filter people who are trying to sell them something, but nobody wants to filter people who want to buy something. I have yet to see a system (here's a feature suggestion waiting for someone to implement it) that makes the distinction.

    Scott Allen Entrepreneurs Guide
    Company of Friends Networking SIG Coordinator

  • Melissa Giovagnoli

    The best way to get connected to someone is to create what I call a "transference of trust." This means you need to have a conversation with a person who has a strong trust connection to the person you want to meet first, and then, ask this person to make an introduction for you.

    However, I have also found that there it is better to have at least a five minute conversation with the person who will introduce you to find out what is of top interest of the person whom you want to meet. Then, have that conversation with your introducer based on what you know matters most to the person you want to meet. It's a good, connective bridge to get a better and more successful introduction.