Monday, August 6, 2012

What is networking? And is it worth the effort?

I was in a discussion recently with some other genealogists and the subject of networking came up.  Some wondered if networking was worth the time and effort.

Regardless of whether you are a hobbyist or professional genealogist, do you feel that networking helps your genealogical research?

What does networking mean to you?
What form does it take (in person, online, society meetings, etc)?
What kind of exchange are you looking for?
Do you feel it's just a waste of time and you should focus on your own distant cousins or dirct work colleagues?
Which do you feel is more important, advertising or networking  and why?

I am really interested in hearing what everyone has to say on this topic!

My take on Networking

You probably already know this but I value networking a lot. For me, it is something intuitive that I can't really help doing. I learned it from my mother. She loved networking too. I don't know where she got it from.

I like to meet people who have a similar interest in genealogy or history. I am not looking for anything specific when I start networking. I am looking to build relationships. I'm in it for the long haul. Networking might reap a reward for me in six months, five years or not all.

I also love the chance to help people. If I can do any action, small or large, to help someone I will try to do it. Likewise if I can connect two people who will benefit from the connection then I like to do that too.

Networking allows me to meet people either in person or online. That allows me to help them and maybe someday they'll find a way to help me too.

Networking also enriches me. I meet the coolest people through social media and face to face. Sometimes they have a different expertise than me or sometimes they have had some really cool life experiences. Meeting them and learning about their lives broadens my understanding of the world and increases my capacity to interact with more people because it opens up a whole new subject matter for me.

I guess what I'm saying is that networking is both building relationship and increasing my education all that the same time. A perfect combination for genealogy I think!

Networking has helped me professionally. Some of my best opportunities have come from professionals and non-professionals that I have networked with. Likewise, I like to share professional opportunities with people who have taken the time to build a relationship with me. 

What form does a relationship have? It might be Facebook, Twitter, Google+, society meetings, professional meetings, socials, email, phone calls, etc  I have met people in person who I established relationships with on Twitter and other social media.  They have become an important sounding board for me.

I also strongly believe in advertising but I don't spend much if any on it (right now). At the moment I'm satisfied with networking.

Each individual likely has their own strong preferences and comfort level with networking. I realize that though I am comfortable with it, many people aren't.  My brother, for instance, is much shyer than me. At one point in his life when he was searching for a new job he had to force himself to become more comfortable with networking. I think today, he would say that it is a valuable activity. But it took him a lot of hard work to get to that point.

So tell me what you think - thumbs up or thumbs down to networking and why?


  1. Thumbs up to networking. I really started networking professionally online last year and made some really good friends. Those friends and I have helped each other personally and professionally. Many I have even met in real life. If it were not for the networking I have done the last six month, the kids' genealogy books I published would have gone nowhere. There is still a lot of marketing to do but I know for a fact that all the social media networking has helped promote the books. Absolutely thumbs up totally worth doing.

  2. I never explicitly sought to network through blogging, Facebook, or Google+, but it sort of naturally happened and the benefits have been huge: from the moral support of fellow genealogy bloggers to advice on places to search or methods to use to spontaneous offers to look things up for me that have yielded invaluable information. And when I am able to attend a genealogy conference and meet up with my online colleagues, it makes the whole experience even more enjoyable. The other day I relished the opportunity to do a lookup for someone who contacted me through my blog; unfortunately, I had to report back that the lady's family were not in my county book - and I learned from her reply that there is an updated version, which I might not have known otherwise.

  3. Networking, whether professional or personal, allows you to meet so many people that enrich your life in so many ways. They educate and entertain you. It is well-worth the time!

  4. The future of networking will be built by social media. This isn't exactly new as networking in general has been done since the dawn of man. The principle of networking was the earliest form of currency. Example, I'll help you build your barn if you'll help me harvest this years crop type arrangement. This was community based in most places. Many hands make light work. Social Media Networking could possibly be the new word of mouth advertising for a global scale. I've always wanted this brand of networking people helping people to obtain common goals. I personally believe we as Genealogist haven't as a whole reached this level as we still seem to want to set ourselves as individuals and most market ourselves in this manor. No two people are identical and this will always hinder the community of it's full potential.

  5. A similar discussion topic on the APG list questions whether social networking as advertising is ethical.

    A bit of a wall flower sentiment in my opinion, but here is a number of statistics that are relevant to whether the time and effort is worthwhile for the payback.

    Sharon Sergeant

    1. Oh, now isn't that funny that I started a conversation on this just when they had one going! I should really read the APG list more but to quote someone who doesn't use social media "I just don't have the time."

      I think people who don't use social media either 1) don't get it or 2) are self employed and are luckily working too much to do it :)

      Honestly, I think that people who don't get social media networking probably don't get face to face networking either. Chris Staats summed it all up when in his APG post on this topic.

    2. I just spent quite a bit of time on the Jeff Bulas site. Wow great site! Loads of information. Thanks for think. I have added him to my RSS feed.

    3. One of the great advantages of social media is that you can keep up with so much more information.

      The relationships you have with other people mean that you know their expertise, values and interests.

      Sharon Sergeant

  6. Dad used to tell me, "It isn't always what you know but who you know."

    Networking is a newer word for a very old concept.

  7. When it comes to networking, I feel it is definitely worth the time and effort!

    Over the past 10 years, I've experienced a wonderful give-and-take with fellow genealogists. In some instances, I've been able to assist others. Then there have been times when others have assisted me.

    It is wonderful that the internet allows us to connect, share interests, and lend one another a hand, even from great distances. Especially useful to me, being a military spouse (for only one more year!) and living overseas. :)

  8. Marian, you are such a great conversation starter! I wanted to reply yesterday, but found I had too much to fit in this little box I blogged my own response. (Can't seem to get that "Create a Link" thingy to work, though...)

    Like you, I inherited my propensity to network (in my case, thanks to my dad). Like your brother, I've become rather shy after years removed from the work world to homeschool my daughter, but networking electronically is still happening! And who can help but enjoy getting to know such an interesting bunch as fellow genealogists???

    Since first reading your post last night (and writing my response), I see there are several more comments with great points. (You could virtually start a forum here, you generate such responses!) Ezri's comments particularly resonate. AncestralManor's mention of the APG discussion on the ethics of "social networking as advertising" could itself launch another conversation!

    Networking always has been networking, though it's morphed through many formats. High tech word-of-mouth may be "social media" and networking, but it becomes a form of advertising, too--for which there are already Fair Trade codes of ethics, by the way.

    Each of us is our own "brand" and we stand for something that others can recognize and seek out--if only we knew how to connect. The vitality that networking brings to any circle of interest or field of pursuit, handled judiciously, is well worth the effort!

  9. thumbs up! Especially since I met you through "networking," my friend :) Our conversations have helped take me to great places - in the intellectual and practical senses. Networking is not only valuable, it is essential in the 21st century.

  10. Thumbs up! When I started blogging I thought I should get a handle on Twitter and Facebook, and I've met so many lovely people. Being a genealogist can sometimes be a rather solitary occupation, and it's great to be able to connect with others so easily. Jo

  11. I don't know about anyone else but my family (husband and children) couldn't care less about genealogy. Networking allows me to talk with other like minded people on the subject. I've never any genealogist that doesn't like talking about it. I enjoy networking both on line and in person at society meetings and workshops. There is always more to learn and sometimes the best way is to learn from others.