Blog: Business Social Networking Geography: Does It Matter Where My Contacts Are?

Blog: Business Social Networking Geography: Does It Matter Where My Contacts Are?

Although the Internet is global, and you may do business with people anywhere in the world, most people tend to look for people-networks close to home. Or do they? Should they? If the point of social networking is to connect with other people, ought it to matter where we are?

I once worked with a lovely single woman who was looking for Mr. Right. One Monday morning, she told me a story about a gentleman she met over the weekend. He was smart, kind and shared her interests. She added sadly, "Too bad it won't work out. We're geographically incompatible. I live in Peoria [a northwest Phoenix suburb] and he's in Chandler [in the southeast part of town]."

At the time, it reminded me of the old joke, in which a young swain writes a letter to his ladylove (obviously it's old; one wrote letters):

Mary—For the chance to gaze into your eyes, I would swim the deepest river. To touch your cheek, I would cross the widest desert. For the tiniest chance to kiss your perfect lips, I would climb the highest mountain.—John.

P.S. I'll come over to your house on Saturday night, if it doesn't rain.

The nice thing about Life Online is that geography doesn't have to matter. My brother-in-law didn't wonder about whether he was geographically compatible with his own ladylove; he met her through eHarmony, corresponded with her using instant messaging, talked on the phone a few times... and then drove 300 miles from Wyoming to Nebraska to meet her. Three months later, they got married. (That's your cue to say, "Awwww!" Especially since they're still married, three years later, and for good reason; my sister-in-law is wonderful.)

That's at a personal level, though. What about business? Should location be a key factor in acquiring business expertise?

I'm probably not the right person to answer the question authoritatively. A side effect of my living inside Internet packets rather than in a physical community—I don't know my next-door-neighbor's name—is that I pay little attention to where someone is. I've been a full time telecommuter for most of my career (which explains why I've written so many articles on how to do telecommuting right). I don't care about someone's geography; I only care how good they are.

Which is a lot of throat clearing for the item that inspired me today: a press release from the UK-based TalkBizNow, which aims to take on LinkedIn.

While the press release touted the TalkBiz feature set—which seems perfectly nice—that's not what their announcement made me contemplate. Instead, I thought about choices of business social networks made by people in different locales. If we're all in one big happy online world, where you can find a brilliant programmer in Poland, do we need an "American" LinkedIn and a "European" one? Is that reasonable—since we do tend to network with the people we know—or a not-so-hot sign, since we're all supposed to be moving towards a global economy?

Note that I'm not speaking here of largely personal social networks, such as Facebook, even though some of them are expanding into business. Nor am I addressing how Gen-X or Gen-Y users employ those networks. Or even the issue of the problems of relative intimacy of social network connections. And certainly not those which are serve local "where's a nearby Thai restaurant?" needs, such as Yelp or BooRah. I'm looking just at business-centric social networks.

I knew that some business social networks, like Xing, are far more popular in Europe than they are in the US, and vice versa. But if we're one world and using one Internet... well duh, does that make sense?

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