In our connected world, networking to create connections is an invaluable asset, but it is not necessarily something easy or instantaneous. When people move to a new city it can take years to feel ‘settled’. How can we create a community of practice, a community or learners, a community of professionals, a community of friends? There is not really a text book and even if was, I somehow doubt it would be accurate. Too many real people and real situations involved.
Once upon a time, connection was taught through how to greet people face to face and how to write letters. Introductory salutation, carefully presented and formed cursive handwriting, return address, date (with the commas in the correct place: Tuesday, 13 March, 2018) and signed with the appropriate version of sincerely, yours truly, faithfully. There is a magic with the internet and the instantaneous aspect of communication now, but somehow there is also confusion. Do I write as if you can see inside my thoughts? What filter do I use? How do I approach someone I don’t know? Somehow I cannot shake the generational titles I use to address the neighbours where I grew up. I could never address Mrs. Fletcher as Jane, and still have a hard time calling my school teachers other than by their formal Mr./Mrs. names. The transition from Instagram videos to inquiring about a professional connection is blurred and the specifics of how and when are not taught. This is mainly because the changes are happening so very fast that by the time someone writes about it, we’ve moved on yet again.
Last week I listened to a podcast by Kris Shaffer and Jesse Stommel on teaching without social media. In true podcast form, they have a discussion and raise great points and ask a lot of questions. I took away two very important points:
- It would be wonderful to be able to safely amplify the voices of students.
- It is difficult to build a road for connection, and easier to use existing paths.
A resounding yes to both of those points. There are various social media platforms out there which each have different constraints and objectives. Often the objective is monetisation, and connection serves us and the companies who run the sites, however there are platforms that are not monetised.
So amplification? Do we shout into the wind, or how should we connect? Here’s an analogy:
Rain will make you wet, but even though lots of rain comes down, it does not necessarily fill a bucket, because it is not directed.
The total volume of a big splash is worth less than a cup of successfully collected water.
Understanding how to focus in order to reach your intended audience is a skill and will take some research into the others in your intended network.
The blanket approach is not necessarily going to hit the mark in the way that a personal letter once would have done. Connection and amplification, when successful can alter the course of, well of a product, a career, a life. Today I am going to ask my students these questions with regard to their writing:
- Who is your audience?
- Who would you like to have in your audience?
- How can you access those people?
- and I’ve suggested they read this post by Alan Levine on ‘amplifying the network’
I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t have a definitive how-to answer to give them. I do know that connection is invaluable, it takes reaching out and being willing to take the first step, and who knows… I’ll leave you with a song from days gone by – Even if it’s not your type of music, listen to the chorus. The message is still valid as ever.