It’s been almost twelve months since I reviewed my professional network, so it was timely to look at it again. Once again I’ve used Mark McNeilly’s article Ask These Questions About Your Professional Network Before It’s Too Late to guide my review. I also used Twitter Analytics and the free network visualisation tools TweepsMap to look at my Twitter network and socilab to look at my LinkedIn network.
In this time my Twitter network has grown substantially, with an increase in followers from 45 to 615, and I am now following 450 people. I have been looking for a Twitter analytics tools that will help me to look at who I FOLLOW, rather than my followers. I haven’t yet found a tool that does summary level data aggregation on this. Knowing about who follows me and what people find valuable in what I share is useful. However, I also need to know about those I have selected to learn from and seek to create possibilities with – the people I follow. So, by default I’ve looked at the analytics about my followers (approximately 2/3 of whom i follow) to consider this question, along with scrolling through my Following list.
My Twitter network has grown largely as a consequence of my Personal Knowledge Management and professional development activities, which use a number of online tools and communities plus face-to-face conferences and real-world work activities. As such, there are a lot of people in this part of my network from the Learning & Development profession, plus others who have an interest in social learning and communities. Geographically, my international network is predominantly in Australia, USA and UK as shown on the TweepsMap below. Given Australia’s business ties with Asia this is an area where I would like to grow my network. In Australia my network is concentrated in Sydney; I would like to grow my network in other areas, especially Melbourne and Brisbane.
A year ago I said I would start sharing and learning through LinkedIn. I haven’t done this often, nor purposefully. I have found blogging, Twitter Chats, conference presenting, MeetUps, and using Feedly to aggregate blog posts and Google Alerts powerful ways to learn. I’m unsure whether actively using LinkedIn would create adequate incremental learning value. Having said that, I have recently noticed an increase in posts on topics relevant to me on LinkedIn so am not completely closed to the notion.
My number of LinkedIn connections has increased by approximately 25% to 630 in the past year. Mostly others have invited me to connect. I’ve accepted those connections where either I knew the person or felt based on their profile there was some common interest. Socilab generated the visual image of my LinkedIn network shown below (I selected ‘hide names’ so I could share the map, but did look at names on the image to understand the clusters and identify ‘bridges’ and outliers).
The map shows data for 499 of my 1st and 2nd degree connections. It includes links between those who are connected to each other. The clusters represent groups of people I know through roles in specific organisations (4 clusters), Learning & Development (L&D) professionals (1 cluster), and a non-work club (1 cluster). With the exception of the L&D cluster and the club, the bulk of my LinkedIn connections are people I have worked with in the past. As such they are concentrated in a small number of industries and professions, and mostly in Australia. My LinkedIn network is thus relatively ‘closed’ and lacking in diversity. The outliers represent potential diversity opportunities and warrant exploration, as do the bridges between clusters who are people who are potentially good connectors.
“Real World” Network
My ‘real world’ network are those people I spend time with face to face or currently work with in my job. Outside my organisational boundaries the people in my real world network tend to also be in my online network, but are located in, or have visited, Sydney or Melbourne. Within my organisation my network within my business unit is strong, and includes most of the managers and Subject Matter Experts around Australia, who are key stakeholders. It also includes a small group of people in our Indonesian operations, whom we supported to implement technical training in 2014. With the exception of people in Human Resources and Information Systems whom I have worked with on specific initiatives, my network outside of my business unit is small and weak.
Depth and Quality of Relationships
My network is deepest with those who I have had to collaborate most closely to deliver specific outcomes, and with those who share common interests that are related to my goals. This is a much smaller number than the total size of my network. I am comfortable to have differing degrees of intimacy and connection with those in my network. However, I have not been deliberate in identifying relationships with the most potential to create possibilities and opportunity for both myself and others. I’ve recently been participating in a Working Out Loud Circle. In the Circle Kits and his soon to be published book, John Stepper suggests the use of a relationship list – a short list of people who could support you to achieve a goal and to whom you could contribute. My experience using this approach is that it helps me to deepen key relationships within my network in a genuine and purposeful way.
I shall PURPOSEFULLY and CONSCIOUSLY develop my network. My goal is to build a network which accelerates my learning, helps me achieve my goals, and creates opportunities in areas that I am most interested in for myself and those with whom I am connected. I intend to act with a spirit of contribution within my network.
In the coming year I will:
– Increase connections and sharing with those with an interest in Community building, especially Communities of Practice (COP), and those in industries where COPs are most commonly used (am thinking Professional Services and Consulting)
– Expand and deepen connections with people in Supply Chain roles and FMCG
– Prune some of my online connections to help me focus on those which create higher mutual value
– Maintain relationship lists to help me achieve goals by deepening relationships with relevant people
– Rebalance my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and networking activities in my routine so that networking is purposeful and not just a consequence of my learning activities
– Broaden my organisational network (e.g. through cross-functional projects and voluntary activities such as the ’employee engagement’ committee)
– Do a review at least once a fortnight of my networking and PKM activities and conduct network maintenance activities. I shall find useful tools for this purpose – will try MentionMapp, socilab and Commun.it initially
Blog post coming soon on my PKM, Networking and maintenance routine.
Please reply to this post below to share any tips you have for people seeking to improve their professional network.