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I recently read a great article from Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn. The main theme was asking if you were “Network Literate”. As a Marketing Leader, you may think you are a master of the domain. But are you really? Be brutally honest with yourself. Are you just reading the latest trends and handing tactics to the team to execute? Is your team and organization taking advantage of the “network” opportunity? In other words, are you embracing networks to drive leads and opportunities?

 

In social selling, we typical call this your “Reach”. Increasing your reach is what gets you into more opportunities. Reid’s article is about being a master of social network reach. The key to increasing reach is being a “Network Literate” master.

 

Let’s examine how Reid breaks down network literacy. He bucketed it into 3 parts:

 

  • Apprentice: Using network technology
  • Journeyman: Establishing a network identity
  • Master: Utilizing network intelligence

     

Are you an Apprentice, Journeyman or Master in Network Literacy? Let’s dive deeper in each to find out. Here’s an executive summary of how Reid’s article explained each:

 

Apprentice: Using network technology

At this most basic level of network literacy, you’re part of some networks. You have a Facebook profile, a LinkedIn profile, etc. You’re using these networks to keep in touch with people you know, and on occasion, you may even use them to facilitate new connections.

 

While you may not be completely fluent yet, you understand that Facebook is more than just a place to announce what you had for lunch. It’s a place to strengthen personal relationships. Similarly, you know that LinkedIn is more than just a repository for your digital resume. You use phrases and keywords with deliberate intention. You maximize your discoverability to engage with the kinds of people you want to connect.

 

Journeyman: Establishing a network identity

Once upon a time, we exercised unchecked authority over our identities.   We constructed resumes into highly idealized portraits of ourselves. Our references were carefully vetted. In the Networked Age, we are visible at a whole new level. Today our profiles are readily apparent links to the world. Colleagues, mentors, institutions, and other entities shape the contours of our identity.

 

We’re all the sum of an ongoing conversation that we initiate and propel. Colleagues, customers, and even competitors contribute to the conversation. In the past we relied on our resumes to define us. Today we’re judged by network-derived metrics of influence and authority: Who retweets our tweets? Who comments on our Medium posts? Who shows up on LinkedIn as a 1 degree connection?

 

In the Networked Age, your professional identity expands well beyond your job title. You’re not just “you” anymore. You’re also who you know, how they know you. What they know about you, and who they know. At the Journeyman level, this way of thinking is becoming second nature to you. You understand that your identity is multivariate, distributed, and partially out of your control – your network helps shape your identity too.

 

Master: Utilizing network intelligence

Spend five minutes watching your LinkedIn feed or Twitter timeline. Information proliferates even faster in the Networked Age than it did in the Information Age. Consequently, the ability to extract the right information at the right time is more crucial than ever. Search literacy is an important starting point. In today’s high-velocity world, network literacy is increasingly crucial too.

 

In the Information Age, people’s “first reads,” were major national news sources. Now, if you’re fully network-literate, your networks are your first reads. You’ve built pipelines of people who reliably deliver information that is highly relevant to you.

 

“Dark net” is critical-edge information that hasn’t made it into newspapers and blogs. This information exists only in people’s heads. In the past, such information was difficult to access for all but the best-connected individuals. Now, it’s often just a few keystrokes away.

 

Understand the information flows within any given network. You know who the news breakers are. You know the thought leaders, the critics, and skeptics within a particular domain. You’re familiar with their preferred sources and biases.

 

The quality of your connections – and the strength of the relationships you have with them — generally matters more than the quantity. Ten informed individuals are more valuable than a thousand people you only know in a superficial way.

 

So ask yourself now:

Are you an Apprentice, Journeyman or Master in Network Literacy?

 

Most of your marketing leader peers are Apprentices. A few are Journeymen. Your goal is to be a Master. This gives you the experience to guide your marketing team to support social selling.

 

Don’t miss the “Network” opportunity. To benefit yourself and your organization, push all your chips in. Everywhere you go, everything you do, you should be visualizing networks. As Reid Hoffman says: “If you’re not seeing networks when you enter a room, you might want to check your pulse.”

 

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Key Takeaway:

To be a Network Literate master, you have to always be thinking about your network. You also have to be thinking about how you add value to the networks. The value you give will give back more. The value you provide will turn connections into relationships and relationships into alliances.

 

Start now by download my Networking toolkit to help you pave the way to being a master.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Koehler

Helps clients adopt emerging best practices so they can make their number.
Learn more about John Koehler >

John has been with SBI since 2011. He has worked with executives in Executive Education, Media, Telco, IT Services, and others. Under his leadership, organizations have successfully grown revenue and improved sales and marketing effectiveness. With a focus on aligning strategies across functions, John has delivered strategic solutions that are actionable and executable. Prior to SBI, John earned his MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

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