You may have noticed that my blog roll has some recent additions. There's a whole new section on relationships -- these are the bloggers who connect with people and with ideas. New links are Dawud Miracle, Tim Johnson (Carpe Factum) and Terry Starbucker (Ramblings from a Glass Half Full). I added a section for online publications I read and a brand new section of blogs written in Italian -- time to crank open those dictionaries; these writers are very well rounded.
If you don't notice that sort of thing when you visit other blogs, try doing so next time. The blog side bar says as much about the blogger as the content itself -- notice who they include, how frequently people update their blog rolls, and where the information is displayed.
Just like I put forth when I talked about LinkedIn, I add bloggers and publications only after I develop a relationship with them. That means I do one or all of the following -- read, comment, correspond and connect off line, or engage in a project like BrandingWire. There is a feedback loop with collaboration and conversation. My sidebar also mirrors the topics that are of interest and reflects the way I think.
One word about the dynamics of ecosystem -- whenever you introduce new elements into it, you may have a disruptive effect on the components of the existing environment. I would wager that if the new element is introduced as part of a strategy that adapts to the center and context of that ecosystem it makes the learning curve less steep and the system itself more resilient.
The blog ecosystem illustrates how to maintain a very large network utilizing your personal resources in time and effort while making sure that everyone benefits.
Exchanging cards or greetings in blog terms may be an inbound link or one you followed on another blog you were reading. This is the equivalent of being introduced to someone by someone you know or know about. My stance is to listen, read, become familiar with the other person's environment and make mental notes of their expertise and interests.
During this phase I recommend being slow -- do take the time and if you don't have the time right now, make a point of coming back to it. Remember this is about the other first, then about how it relates to you. If content in blogs is king, attitude is queen; the connection happens somewhere in between:
- A well written piece contains an opinion -- and the voice of the author is all over it thus
- Interest and chemistry spark and
- The basis or foundation for an introduction begin to form
In some instances it takes upward of six months to a year to begin to approach a topic with someone new. Contrary to widespread perception, this does not depend directly on the number of inquiries a person receives; it is directly proportional to the quality of the inquiry as it relates to them.
I am using the blog roll as a mini example of the way I have grown and assisted my network over the years. It is not possible to think that you'll be able to be in touch with everyone on a regular basis. Consider also that your interests and growth over time may take you farther away from where the connection began. This may not be very scientific, yet it's human nature. The brain loves novelty and will pay more attention to someone new at first.
At the roots of my blog ecosystem are the publishers who become friends and mentors -- these are the people who nourish and help me refresh my knowledge time and time again. In my case, love of learning is a number one strength. [To discover your strengths, take the VIA Signature Strength Questionnaire that is part of Dr. Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness project run at University of Pennsylvania.]
The categories are a way to introduce like-minded bloggers to each other more than an attempt to provide an exhaustive description of each blog. I think connectively and I see the patterns between groups; as well, each grouping includes one or two anchors -- bloggers who are more social, extroverted, available to a proactive conversation, connectors themselves.
For example, to pick just one -- David Armano among the essential blogs, Anna Farmery on branding, Mike Sansone for business, Geoff Livingston for communications, Connie Reece for ideas, CK and the Diva for marketing (my largest group), Kris Hoet for new media, Liz Strauss for relationships and Maurizio Goetz for the Italian blogs. Each group also includes deep researchers, original thinkers, thought leaders in their field, etc. They share with me curiosity and a bias for action of the connective kind.
Going back and thinking about professionals in your network in this new light, I bet you can come up with one or two ways to help the people in your network meet others with complementary skills and like minds. The point is that although you are at the center of your network, you are there only in your own view. This is one way to put others at the center of smaller networks of practice that are still within your ecosystem.
Do you use your sidebar as a strategy? Is that consistent with your brand and message? Do you have criteria you use to add people to your blog roll?