The Intangible Risk and Opportunity: Your Network

I saw an interesting tweet from Mark Krupinski, a Community Manager at Rasmussen College, that really deserves it’s own post:


["...When you hire someone,...you 'hire' his or her network..." -Mark Krupinski]

While this is certainly true in sales and recruiting (professional networkers), how does it apply to other jobs? What I often think about is the highly connected Generation Y millennials. While some of them certainly may not be as public as others (some of my millennial colleagues only “friend” those that they really know) they have access to a much larger network of FoaF (Friend of friends) acquitances all within one or two clicks.

Quantifying the worth of one’s network will be challenging, while it’s easy to measure the size of one’s network, what about quality and depth? I have a large broad network, but how many of these folks do I really know, or can say I have a close trusted relationship with? Without asking me (I do have an answer, by the way) how would a recruiter be able to figure this out?

Regardless of measurement, many of us will come to the workforce with our large networks with us, as a result, we’ll be pre-tied to colleagues, prospects, partners, and competitors. What plans will companies put in place to benefit from these relationships? Even if that 20 year old intern is not an ‘official’ representative of the company, they are very likely to indicate on their Facebook, Linkedin, and Blog where they work. They represent the company –officially or not — as soon as they self-identify their employer.

There’s both an opportunity and a risk for brands: Opportunity) Train, trust, and empower employees to be behave online just as a they would at the workplace. Risk) Do nothing and trust that your employees will separate what they do online from their company, or that they’ll always behave kosher.

Take for example this 20 year old UK worker who was fired for posting a message on a social networking site “F*ck the partnership” (in reference to his own company). The question remains was this worker fired for bad behavior on a social network? Or just being a bad employee?

In the end, our personal live (and networks) are colliding with our work lives, and online, many of us have to give a bit for both.

  • http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com david cushman

    Nice point Jeremiah. And if every node you add doubles the value of your network… well I’m off to follow a few more tweeting peeps – and put in for a pay rise ;-)

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    David

    I’m trying to think about how to quantify one’s network, I’m not sure following more twitter folks will do the trick.

  • silent boss

    We had an employee leave and one of suppliers called before we made an announcement because an update was published on her facebook status. Personal news travels fast.

  • Erik

    I think there are two important sides to this issue: both the person making the post, and how they view their own comments in relation to the company they may be inadvertently representing; and also, the viewer, and their choice to associate (or not) the comments an individual makes outside a work setting with that company.

    For example, it would never occur to me to associate a comment or position someone held, while maybe offensive, as representative of the company they work for, unless they where specifically making it in a professional setting.

    The internet and its social revolution have created a crossover in our personal and professional lives, but for me, it comes natural to assume separation, unless something is specifically clarified as professionally representative.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Erik, have you read this example of “fairy boy”?

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22756398-401,00.html?from=mostpop

    While he likely got fired for lying, we can expect the bank’s brand management team to also be concerned about the bank’s image.

  • http://www.beingpeterkim.com Pete

    Related, as organizations progress toward the inevitable blurring of work/life, management of personal brands will become a greater issue. In the UK example, you’ve got to separate that person – clearly not on point with the greater brand. But companies that embrace this and harness for positive results will have a strong customer-centricity engine in place.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    It’s always good to hear from you Pete.

    Agreed, employee behavior can certainly impact how customers will perceive the brand.

  • Erik

    Thanks Jeremiah, interesting article. I myself use Facebook at my company when hiring co-ops (interns) to try and get a more “real” glimpse as the kind of person they are. I don’t care if they having pictures at party’s, I partied in college too, but you get an idea, are they a social person, outgoing, interesting, what do they really do in their free time (no one really skis, bikes, reads, and writes poetry all the time).

    In my previous post, I was looking at things from the employee perspective, and those viewing his online information; specifically not the employer. The point being, if I saw this guy’s photo on Facebook, it would not affect my decision to open an account at that bank.

  • Erik

    On another note from Pete’s post – it becomes more and more important to hire good people, not just good employees. A difficult issue with a constantly changing balance between employee and company transparency.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Erik –got it, makes sense.

    “A difficult issue with a constantly changing balance between employee and company transparency.”

    I guess the key is to find someone who can do both.

  • http://www.orbius.com C.H. Low

    I think the employees (what they do and what they say) is the company! Companies don’t interact with customers/suppliers, it is people in the company that do that.

    I agree that there is/should be a separation of personal and business personas. But like it or not, each of us form our feeling of a relationship based on the totality of the person and what/whom they represent.

    While I also don’t have a problem opening an account at the bank where the “fairy boy” works at, I would have an issue if the fairly boy were say, the fund manager of the mutual fund I invested in.

    In sales, it is said that we don’t buy from the company, but we generally buy based on our interaction with the salesperson. If I like a product but hate the salesperson, I probably won’t buy the product.

    The internet makes it hard for us to keep our different personas separate, but that is a fact of our lives on the Net and we have to understand that. Many solutions are begining to emerge to help us better manage our different personas and share our varied personality with only whom we want!

    C.H. Low, CEO, http://www.orbius.com

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    CH Low

    You wouldn’t have a problem with fairy boy if he was your account manager? If he lied to his employer to take time off, aren’t you concerned if he was your direct interface with the company? I would be.

  • Tom Cummings

    The UK parternship kid has an interesting point that what he said is no different from griping about his job to friends at a pub, and that’s not something that should get you fired.

    I disagree though. What he did was more like yelling at the pub, not realizing that his boss and his entire dept were sitting behind him, listening in the entire time. It wouldn’t be a newsworthy story if he got canned after an incident like that.

    You always gotta be careful about your words being overheard in the real world…social networks just put more people within virtual earshot.

  • http://www.orbius.com C.H. Low

    Jeremiah,

    I may not have stated what I meant correctly. I apologize for the confusion.

    I do mean that a person’s behavior does indeed affect how we perceive their employer. And I mean, it matters more when it is close proximity to your own relationship with the brand e.g if they manage my money at the bank.

    And yes, I do care if the fairy boy were my account manager or in fact is anyone’s account manager.

    But I really meant to say that the convergence of the private and personal side on the web is also unfortunate especially when many times when it can be taken out of context. NOTE I am not defending the fairy boy or the other one that bad-mouthed the employer.

    I am just suggesting that in real life, some, if not most of us, do have different personas that deserves to be kept separate.

    It is unfortunate for brands when employees behave in ways with risk of negative perception (note it is also unfortunate that only the perception that matters), as I agree the employee’s behavior will affect the brand as you, Jeremiah, suggest. But it is also an unfortunate loss of individuals’ right to free expression – especially when it is a bit out of mainstream. And on the web such situations, even when they are harmless, can be so easily taken out of CONTEXT – especially by strangers.

    I am only suggesting that all individuals need to be aware that there is now very minimal separation of personal and business personas on the web. And they need to heed your suggestion to be careful. Until there is a better solution for them to share their personal wild side (or remarks) with only whom they intended for so that they don’t contaminate their employers’ brand unintentionally, they need to be careful.

    If the colleagues you bitched about work to were truly your friends, it would mots likely would have been harmless. The cases you cited definitively indicate that the current social sites that treats all relationships to be equal (and as friends) obviously do not provide such control of your privacy at this time the way you would have intended on the web. Not everybody you are connected to on social networks are your friends. Real friends would have just listen with empathetic ear understanding that you are just having a bad day instead of giving you up to your boss!. Our relationships are multi-dimensional and asymetrical in real life. Unfortunately the online world does not truly reflect that YET!

    So people need to be aware and beware!

    C.H.Low, CEO, http://www.orbius.com

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks CH Low…makes sense.

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  • http://pbwiki.com Chris Yeh

    I know that any company I work with is hiring both my skills and my network. For years, I’ve taken time out during the work day to meet smart and interesting people, and no one has ever complained, because they’re smart enough to know that this activity reflects well on the company and increases the chance I’ll be able to draw on someone in my network in the future.

    The other point about quantifying one’s network is interesting. Numbers are meaningless. And the value of someone’s network depends on what you want to do…the same network has different values to different companies. You have to decide what you want to do and then evaluate accordingly.

    If you wanted help finding venture capitalists, I’m your guy. If you wanted help finding conceptual modern artists, I’d be a pretty crappy choice, no matter how many LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter friends I have.

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  • silent boss

    We had an employee leave and one of suppliers called before we made an announcement because an update was published on her facebook status. Personal news travels fast.