Getting the most from social software.
The Virtual Handshake is a how-to book for creating and expanding networks online, be they professional or social. The authorsTeten a Harvard Business School grad and CEO; Allen an entrepreneurdescribe the latest software and tools to transfer and maximize the potential of real-live networks online. They offer tips for people who are unsure if networking skills are easily transferable online and also attempt to persuade skeptics who are leery about doing business and socializing on the Internet.
It's true that a large percentage of the population spends a good deal of time communicating across fiber optic lines. According to Teten and Allen, it makes sense to strategically use the Web as a way to gather contacts as well as find a job and handle sales, marketing, business development, and even volunteer.
The first step is to start a lifetime e-mail address. Think of your e-mail address as your virtual self, they advise. Next there are blogs; software for "relationship capital management" such as LinkedIn, which allows users to link to others who share the same interests or who are experts in their field; and sites such as Meetup.com, which bring like-minded people together in the physical world. There are also personal digital identity sites like Microsoft's Passport Network, which let individuals set up and maintain credentials on a single platform.
This comprehensive book is a smart addition to any company bookshelf. The authors also keep the book current through their blog, http://thevirtualhandshake.com/blog/. As Teten and Allen conclude, "... You can use social software to build and leverage a much larger and more effective network. Whether you choose to participate or not, social software will impact you."
Teten (HBS MBA '98) is CEO of Nitron Advisors, an independent research firm for professional investors, and chairs Teten Recruiting. Allen is an entrepreneur with a software company, a consulting practice, and several online businesses.
- Sara Grant