I recently read an article by Social Media strategist Chris Brogan in which he talked about how to Reach Outside Your Fishbowl to Build Community. He says that by reaching out to disparate audiences, you can find those who may not have exposure to you otherwise.
This is great advice and got me thinking about how we can also take advantage of our personal interests and dive deeper into our existing groups for the same purpose, how to use our multiple fishbowls.
Networking is all about building relationships, but who says these relationships have to originate around our area of business? How can we harness the networks that exist for our personal interests as well?
One of the best networkers I ever met was a local Realtor who was incredibly active in our community. He participated in the local temple, bake sales, fund raisers and auctions. All of these were activities that were of interest to him but on the surface had little to do with his profession.
In the online world, when people talk about social networks, we tend to think of the mass market sites like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Friendfeed and the like. These sites are a sort of generic community. It is through your own friend selection process that you create your own custom group and filter the content so that it reflects your interests.
While some of these sites are moving in the direction of more specialization like Linkedin Groups and Friendfeed Rooms for example, there are thousands of independent Niche Networks, communities built around a more specific interest or product.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
If you’re a lover of books, GoodReads lets you rate and review books and then find like minded folks who have similar literary interests. Sure, you can use it as self contained library manager, but the real value comes from your interaction on the site. Give and get reviews on books you are reading or looking to read. The community is very active and quite friendly. This is a new one to me but as an avid reader, I’m eager to get more involved.
For music you really can’t go wrong with Last.fm, a community oriented site that matches you with others based upon your shared listening habits. Journal about your favorite artists or create a group to gather everyone together. I really enjoy listening to the stations that my friends create.
While I participate because of the inherent enjoyment I get from doing so, being a part of these and other networks and communities have also led me to meet some great people. Friends I have found in the music community have also turned out to be active in the technology community, and by linking to them in these adjunct networks I have strengthened my relationships with them and other colleagues and clients.
These are just a couple of examples of sites that fit my interests but there are equivalents for folks interested in food, photography, art, guitar, decorating, hiking, geocaching, well – you get the idea.
Have you found value in your niche networks? In which groups are you most active?