A few recent events have inspired me to think about the (relative) price of my network.
The first event came from two interactions with companies who offered me small consulting projects. It was clear after a few conversations that both were more interested in mining my contacts to further their own businesses with little in return for my own. Neither had much to offer in terms of long term job (or project) interest for me, and since equity in their lines of businesses wasn’t what I was looking for, I politely declined the projects.
My business network, while not as impressive as some out there, is certainly growing, and it’s not something I’m willing to allow access to for just any business proposal. Part of the point of building a business network is to create trusted, qualified contacts with whom you engage with back and forth (note, this is not always the case on both sides, but an aspiration, as I respect anyone whom I’ve connected with).
The second is the recent brouhaha over Facebook once again revising their “like” and privacy policies. Facebook is useful to me as it’s my personal newsfeed, bridging the gap between friends and family whom I’m logistically far away from. The other day I watched a video of one of my “nephews” taking their first steps, and was super excited to be able to share the experience.
On the flip side, knowing that my personal data is getting mined for advertising and who knows what else, I keep my Facebook profile somewhat incomplete. I don’t have control over who, or what company, can access my information and network, and I’m hesitant to publish more data to it. It’s rare that I’ll “like” a business page, unless it’s something local or a friend’s project. I find myself posting infrequently to my network, though I am known to throw in a few wry comments(or three) about others’ status.
I recognize that Facebook is a business, and now a public one, which means they have even more pressure and scrutiny from their investors and the media to produce revenue. However, I think they’re continuing to walk that fine line with how much the public and their preferences are interested in being the vehicle in which to produce that revenue, now that there are other options for connecting with your personal contacts. There isn’t a clear answer to the above observation, only that it will be interesting to watch how Facebook handles it in the US. Other countries, such as Germany have much stricter rules about the collection and usage of personal data.
This is not to say you shouldn’t try to have productive business or personal networks; I’m just being judicious about how mine are utilized.
What do you think? Have you shifted how you interact with any of your networks recently?