Social Networking Doesn’t Work

Social networking doesn’t work. Crowdsourcing doesn’t work. Nobody cares.
Most of the folks who come to these conclusions don’t even bother to post them publicly (although plenty do). It’s enough that they posted a question, asked for help in a topical forum, or tried to build a community online. And nothing happened.
Perhaps nothing happened despite a firm belief that something would happen. Heck, ‘thought leaders’ are making thousands a day in speaking fees and making the best-seller list preaching that it will happen. Even if sometimes we’re not on the same page about what it is.
The power of the crowd. Collective consciousness. Socialized business processes. Social media. The gift economy. Personal brand. Somebody is making it off of all this stuff.
Got a question? Just post it on Twitter and you’ll get an answer. Need a government job? Join LinkedIn and GovLoop. You write and need an income? Google Adwords.
Maybe no one says it exactly like that, but that is what is conveyed. And it doesn’t work.

What Does Work
Social networking is perhaps best simply described as community building on the Web. It’s not terribly different than networking offline really, although it’s now much easier to get a message out to more people. But when it looks easy, it usually isn’t. Some of it is luck – the million-view YouTube video is a rare phenomenon among millions of lame self-produced videos. Social media? Blogging is really just a simple publishing platform, and, like many a poet and an artist throughout history, not many are making a living off of it.
Most of this is just hard, hard work, training and consistency, just like traditional activism and political and cause campaigning, just like other modes of self-employment.
Some of us do get our questions answered on Twitter, usually because we’ve answered literally hundreds of other people’s questions first. And the folks making a living at building online communities are generally making that living because they work really, really hard.
Hard work, and perhaps a little luck. It’s always been what leads to things working out, and it’s the same today.

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