The Kindness of Strangers

December 1, 2009 at 10:00 am | Posted in Social Networks | 1 Comment
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 “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”.

(Blanche DuBois:  A Streetcar Named Desire) 

In their powerful analysis of the Web 2.0 phenomenon “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom”, Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta describe how social networking sites  allow us to maintain a loose but extensive network of our contacts and their contacts.  Our links to the members of this network are weak and generally dormant.  However, when we need advice or assistance, we turn to this network for help.  We’re all prepared to help out by providing information because, we reason, one day we too will need to call on the kindness of strangers.

 A recent Gartner webinar (Social Software: Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast) described how social networks can allow communities of interest to form, often bringing together like-minded people who might otherwise never met.  David Mellor (no relation) of Fairplace is a business mentor, helping people making the transition from employment to running their own business.  David used a LinkedIn group to build a community of interest among the people he has assisted.   I joined other members of this group recently at the Fairplace offices in London for an evening networking event .  One of our number, Christine Stedmann, gave a short presentation on her experiences in the first 12 months of setting up and running her business.  Christine, a former corporate & investment banking professional, is Managing Director of Zentime Living Ltd, an organisational lifestyle management & concierge company.   She maintains a blog to record her ideas and the lessons she’s learned in launching Zentime. 

 In the days following the event, I followed the discussions on the LinkedIn group, added my opinion, where appropriate, and of course added new contacts to my LinkedIn network.  It came as a surprise however to receive an email from Christine, inviting me to showcase Identigrate UK on her blog.  Will that guest post win me business?  I have no idea, but what I do know is this:  it’s connected me and my ideas to a whole new group of people, whom I would otherwise not have reached.

So, next time visit a social networking site, don’t just browse.  Join in the conversation.  If you’re reading a blog – even this one – add a comment.  Give your opinion, offer additional information, or even just offer some encouragement.  Answer questions on LinkedIn when you can.  Retweet interesting messages on Twitter.  Over time, that’s how your online credibility grows and that’s how, when you need help, you’ll experience the kindness of strangers.

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  1. […] because the software tools to hand act as a “force multiplier”.  An alternative view, which I described in an earlier blog post, holds that social networks bring benefit through weak associations.  This view is eloquently […]


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