eTribes and organizations

We all know more and more people out of work these days, and so the number of people building their personal networks is up dramatically. So is participation in associations, turnout at networking events and attendance at seminars. People are rethinking their careers, whether they’ve lost their jobs or if they expect they might.

I’ve heard people say they’ve let their networks atrophy during their last job. Now they’re under pressure to re-connect with friends, colleagues and resources. But they’re behind and often in panic mode.

It’s become important for all of us to build networks. But the term ‘network’ doesn’t begin to cover it. Professionals need to build eTribes— social media communities, while on the job, between jobs and throughout their careers.

Although they may go to work for companies, people are members of tribes. The influence and social capital people bring to an organization comes from their tribes, and is one of the most valuable assets they have. People hired to develop sales or new business are expected to bring tribes of contacts or leads. Specialists turn to their tribes for information on best practices as well as for people of similar skills, who may become candidates as contractors or future hires. I’m scratching the surface here, but these ideas are accepted wisdom about the value of the tribes to which the people who work in the organization belong.

Everyone can see how tribes spring up within the organizational structure. People within departments, age cohorts and work function will bond as tribes and often stay connected for years after they leave the organization. What’s less obvious their tribes outside the organization, which dramatically expand their reach, resources and value they bring back to the organization. New, social media is allowing people to connect faster, farther and more richly to their tribes, making eTribes an accelerating phenomenon.

Companies would be wise to enable their people to cultivate eTribes outside as well as inside the organization. It fosters good will and human connectivity, which make a culture that people want to keep coming to work to be a part of. It also brings talent, knowledge and resources to the organization in dynamic new ways. People do business with people.

So how to make time to connect with eTribes when the pressure and obligation of work already so demanding on people? The following is an approach to linking with your eTribes, while keeping it manageable.

You can’t join everything, and you don’t need to. Pick three. The top three social media communities today, in terms of popularity, are LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook. Each has different advantages and uses, and you may prefer others. If you’re not familiar, see the following discussion about the different uses of LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook. People often get passionate about which to use, which not to.

Set up your profile to establish your personal brand. Use your real name and location, so that others will take you seriously. Beginner guidelines abound online. The time invested in setting up and maintaining your personal brand online will dramatically increase the size, reach and relevance of your eTribe. I’ve been delighted by the number of connections I now have, from countries around the world, as well as within industries and markets where I do business. But the point of cultivating your eTribes is not to spam them with resumes and requests for introductions to potential hiring firms. It’s to set yourself up as an expert with a valuable point of view and certain expertise. The way you make that happen is to write about what know and are passionate about. Read and comment on Blog posts. Contribute to conversations on a given topic. Share your point of view and expert insight. Share what you know, what is interesting or valuable to people. Demonstrate the skills and the knowledge you expect to get hired to use.

Consider starting your own Blog. Many companies hired top-notch experts and enjoy the visibility and connectivity generate by the personal Blogs of their star employees. Insightful companies realize that Blogs posted under the personal brands of their experts are more credible, interesting and more widely red than corporate Blogs. They also open the opportunity to dramatically extent the reach of the company, through the networks of its staff. While this serves the company during their tenure, when they leave, the Blog stays with them.

Individual Blogging isn’t for everyone. Corporate CEOs may have a different priority. It may be more impactful for the company and the executive to focus on using traditional PR (Dec. 12 post: why CEOs shouldn’t Blog).

If your organization doesn’t already support employee Blogging, it may not be easy to persuade your boss to open up the gates and let social networking happen. Companies have a fear of losing people, and of controlling information, with good reason. However, there are many creative ways to connect with your eTribes.

OK, so some people just want to cut to the chase: how do I find a new job? Think differently about your long-term approach to developing your personal brand and your eTribe.