Intro to UNsocial Networking

So much buzz around this new-fangled thing called Social Networking – which everyone seems to know refers to cool sites like LinkedIn (where the world can be a lonely place if you don’t have any connections) and MySpace (which was bought for hundreds of millions but its hard to find something more than a 13 year old cussing and talking trash).

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon quite a bit lately as design ideas spin through my mind, and as I talk with others about networking. An online buddy recently wrote me an e-mail about JibberJobber’s networking components and said:

“Another networking site? How do you see that fitting in with LinkedIn? I looked at Ryze and Orkut, but it seemed pointless to pursue the same network-building activity in more than one venue, so I focused on LI. How is this different, besides the graphic depiction of the network?”

When I get a question like this my response is 5% “You Don’t Get It!” and 95% “I must stink at communicating it!!”

So here are some thoughts on JibberJobber’s networking functionality, which I’ll brand as UNsocial Networking, and all of the other social networking sites.

First, a must-read is Wikipedia’s write-up on social networking. Here are some interesting “facts” from this page:

  • Social Networking was apparently coined in 1954. For all of those that are younger than 14 years old, that means that the Internet was not around when the idea of Social Networking came out.
  • Note that this study talks about a maximum size of a social network being 150 relationships. How does that fit in with those LinkedIn users that have over 3,000 connections?
  • I hope this doesn’t burst anyone’s bubble but LinkedIn was not the first (nor is it the biggest) social network. Classmates.com apparently was the first on-line social network!
  • As of the Widipedia writing, there were about 200 social networking sites. Plus a number of others that were incorporated into corporate ERP systems, so youcouldn’t be a part of them unless you were part of that company. Oh yeah, what about the on-line communities sponsered by universities – that has to take the number of social networks to “thousands.”
  • And an Alba-fact, not from Widipedia, is that the value of a social network is directly proportional to the number of people in the entire network. It is “better” to joined LinkedIn because of its 6million members than it would be to join AlbaSocialNetwork.com with its 3 members.

So a social network is made up of relationships (from “casual acquaintance to close familial bonds”), and historic study shows that the maximum number in your network would be 150. And an “online social network” is any of those 200+ websites that provide a medium for you to find those relationships. Let’s get back to my UNsocial Network.

When I started JibberJobber I knew that I could not go head-to-head with a giant like LinkedIn. It would be a short-lived battle as they have tons of power (millions of $, millions of users, and amazing power-users), and I had… well, nothing 🙂 But there were some aspects of putting together my personal network, tracking it and managing it that I couldn’t find in LinkedIn. Furthermore, JibberJobber’s purpose is to empower the working professional (whether you are a professional sanitation person or accountant or high-level limo-riding executive) with tools (not just articles) that no one else has provided, to help manage transitions in jobs and increase your employability.

So, where LinkedIn’s value comes from the number (and quality) of other users in the network, JibberJobber’s value to you is… just using the system. Let me give you an example.

Yesterday I was talking with a good buddy about all kinds of stuff. Part of the conversation went like this:

Jason: “Chad, you really should put your network in JibberJobber.”

Chad: “why should I, I already have a job.”

Jason: “If you get laid off tomorrow, what are you going to do? Doesn’t it make sense that you have a list of your key relationships that you could call on to help you?” (Chad happens to be a salesman and knows a ton of people, from powerful gatekeepers to business owners and presidents).

Chad: “yeah, I guess that’s right.”

Jason: cringing, because as I mentioned above, I carry 95% of the blame for not being able to communicate this well “how do you keep track of all of your contacts right now?”

Chad: laughing “I have a big pile of business cards”

Jason: “there you go. Enter them into JibberJobber, rank the relationships, put notes on them, and when the time comes you’ll know exactly where you are at with each person, how you can help them, and how they can help you.” I didn’t say it so well yesterday 😉 but if I could this is how I would have said it!

JibberJobber isn’t a place to come to FIND people, heck, you are already finding people offline! If I sat down with you right now I bet we could list 50 people to put in your network including vendors, customers, peers, bosses, THE GATEKEEPER at your office, etc. The idea of not knowing anyone is a simple mix-up with “I don’t know anyone that I think could help me” which is unfortunate – because eveyone, in some way, can add value to you!

And just what’s wrong with that stack of business cards? Here’s an e-mail I got from my buddy George, who is an expert in this arena!

In the last 10 years I have gone through “surges” of networking. Each time, several months later, I look through a stack of business cards. And I have to toss 2/3 of them — who is this guy? When did I meet him? I saved his card — did I have a good reason to?

I’ve been there too! I saved stacks of cards from conferences and after a year go back and wonder why in the world I grabbed that certain person’s card… just to be nice, or because I wanted to develop a relationship??

JibberJobber allows you to track this information. How did you meet this person? Who referred you (and it has a nifty way of tracking this, and the new graphical depiction of it shows you the relations as well as how wide and deep your network really is). Would you like to categorize and tag (label) this person? When you want to follow-up with someone (“call me next quarter”) put it into JibberJobber and it will set up an action item to remind you! When you have an interesting conversation or thought with that person, put it in as a log entry and keep track of it (date, idea, etc.). This is all stuff that everyone, whether you are a job seeker or not, should be doing.

So, unlike LinkedIn and the others, JibberJobber is not an online social networking tool. It is much more like a customer relationship management tool that allows you to forge your own relationships (no matter where they come from), manage and monitor them over time.

I like LinkedIn – I think it is a cool, powerful tool that is growing in value, especially as the Mendoza’s and Merrill’s of the world use it more and more to find job candidates. But as a working professional I don’t want to have to worry about the proprietariness of a tool (like Nathan’s question: LinkedIn vs. Ryze vs. Orkut), the geography of a tool (in Spain they have their own tool: neurona.com), or the amount of value that others place in the tool (if recruiters all the sudden switched everything to Spoke.com, where does that leave the job seekers on LinkedIn? Not likely to happen, but it is an interesting question as Spoke has about 5 times the number of users in their system!)

But if I do use LinkedIn, Spoke and MySpace, it will be in the right perspective. I’ll always have JibberJobber to manage my real relationships, the ones I’m cultivating, and the ones with data I want complete control.

Thus, networking is never not “social” but to differentiate JibberJobber from all of the other online social network sites, perhaps it should be called the only UNsocial Networking tool for you. Its easy and free, just go here to signup.

Does JibberJobber have the potential to contribute to the changing arena in employment by empowering the job seeker, networker and professional like never before?

3 thoughts on “Intro to UNsocial Networking”

  1. Jason,

    Thanks for that post. That helped clear up some of the confusion that I also had about JibberJobber, ie. “So… um… I can graph my network?… um, yeah”.

    A lot of what I’m hearing makes it sound like JibberJobber isn’t necessarily social networking. It’s more like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) on the personal level, or PRM (ooo – there you go, it even as ‘PR’ in the acronym).

    Maybe it would also be helpful to hone your elevator pitch using Paul Kedrosky’s boilerplate:
    http://paul.kedrosky.com/archives/2006/09/15/how_to_describe.html

    If you can summarize what you just said in this post to two paragraphs you may just have a winner.

  2. Matt, thanks for the comment – in the early days we talked a lot about how this was a PRM… alas, that domain was taken!

    And you are right, I should actually use JibberJobber to store my elevator pitch (you can do that in Interview Prep, under the Me in 30 Seconds)…

    … for all of those that don’t know Matt or what he’s doing, check out his blog post here – this is a great example of the personal branding that I’ve been talking about (with a unique twist): http://voxpopdesign.com/bloomburst/1/2006/09/Online-Business-Day-14.cfm

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