In New York and San Francisco, a lot of business networking happens after business hours at bars and other venues. There are places to go almost nightly, where co-workers hangout together and people meet new people. Back in 1999 one of my MyFamily.com co-workers in particular was the king of San Francisco after hours business networking–he knew everyone at other SF dot coms. Such networking leads to cross-pollination of ideas and deal-making and has a very positive impact on business.
So what are the folks in mid-America to do? We live in smaller population centers, with far less concentration of businesses, and there are comparatively few networking events that draw us together. Besides, many non-city dwellers have greater family and community responsibilities (and therefore less free evening time) than the young, hip crowds that flock to the high-energy cities. I know I’m over-generalizing, but I’m trying to make a point.
I have found that LinkedIn.com can adequately replace big city after-hours networking if used intelligentlly. For example, today LinkedIn.com has more than 2,400 users in the Provo, Utah area (a lot more people than can even fit into even a very crowded bar). Today I went through all the most connected Provoans who are not connected to me. I have found half a dozen very successful and talented people with lots of connections (and some endorsements) whom I am now anxious to meet. In the next few weeks, I’ll make contact with each of these people and invite them to lunch or to an event like a UVEF meeting.
LinkedIn is the best place I know to proactively meet important and trustworthy people outside of your current circle of friends. It is far less random and therefore even more productive than hanging out after hours at a big city bar.
Unless you are using LinkedIn proactively and regularly (at least weekly!) you are neglecting what I consider the best tool on the web for building your social capital, which rivals intellectual capital as the greatest source of value creation on the planet.
Both social capital and intellectual capital are combined in the clever Morgan Stanley ad campaign from a few years back: “It’s not who you know. It’s what who you know knows.” LinkedIn can help you increase both. Use it.