So, as a set of tools available to my journey of building personal community, where does social networking fit in?
* If you look at my kid, the entire teen world appears to be in constant tech mode with non-stop texting and online chatting.
* The adults seem to be finding old school mates on Facebook and looking for dates via the virtual world.
* There's LinkedIn and Plaxo and Twitter and host of online sites and tools that add to or distract from the day.
* There are articles telling you that social networking will help/hinder/host your career and life.
My philosophy is never turn down extra help. Social networking tools are one more way to reach out to your community. They are not, however, a replacement for the intimacy and trust-building of face-to-face. They can bridge the gaps between the phone calls and coffees.
My favourite example today is the one my teen realised... having a zillion friends on Facebook didn't mean he had a date for Saturday night. And asking a girl out via Facebook didn't win him any Romeo points either. Having prior chats via Facebook did break the ice. Having friends and events/bands in common did create some reference points.
I think that social networking tools haven't gotten out of their infancy yet. Technology is advancing to the point where we may see bigger grey zones between the face to face/high touch meetings and using technology to have them. I encourage folks to play with them and see how they work. Use them to reach outside your geographic zones for resources, information and counsel. And, please, also still be willing to offer your actual physical presence and time to your community.
Mentors - this is a great dialogue with your mentorees. What do either of you use? What's working? What can you teach each other?
Networkers - success stories are missing at this point. There are lots of examples of why it should work but few are out there at networking events talking about how it's worked for them personally. What a great conversation opener...