Virtual Reciprocity Ring: web based tool for social networking in business
This morning, I attended a seminar for the Virtual Reciprocity Ring, associated with the Ann Arbor ITZone. It’s an interesting concept, borne out of the social networking movement and research by Dr. Wayne Baker at the University of Michigan. The seminar started with a presentation to explain the aspects of this web-based tool for social networking as it applies to professionals. The idea is to build weak links to a number of people with whom you have a common interest. In this case, it’s a business interest, and you build the relationships and trust, and start interacting within the community.
I’ve been to many networking events at the ITZone, but I have to say that I have never been to one as effective as this, mainly because we could solicit ideas, opinions, job candidates, etc. using the web-based tool, instead of the “cocktail party” approach, where you feel like you’re saying the same thing to everyone, but probably forgot to say it to the one person who could have helped you (or you missed talking to that person altogether). It’s all about fostering relationships.
I have seen this same sort of social networking in play in the physical world. I’ve attended conferences, where relationships were formed, and later continued via email. The tool that was presented at the conference today formalizes that a bit. Instead of having an email group, communication is done via the ring, where communications center around requests for help and offers of assistance. Most of the people that I communicated with today were people whom I still have not met. A few people, to whom I offered contributions (often meaning simply advice), came up and introduced themselves following the seminar.
This sort of computer-based communication is pretty effective for computer geeks (not surprisingly). We don’t even have to TALK. We can just communicate via the computer! Not altogether sure that’s good for our growth as communicators, but at least stuff gets done!
I like it. I think that this specific tool needs some refinement (opinions were solicited toward that at this seminar as well). I think that it could be effectively used in a lot of situations that I come into contact with (computer user groups, etc.), but I fear that the cost will be prohibitive. I think that the effectiveness of social networking tools like MySpace is due to the fact that they are free and widely available. By limiting the use of such a product to those who “pay to play”, I feel that the community won’t benefit as much as it could have. But this isn’t at all a MySpace equivalent. It’s an invite-only group, with stated objectives of sharing ideas, services, etc. and paying it forward.
The real key, of course, will be to see if people continue to participate past the few hour session this morning.
The Reciprocity Ring Website
Check it out yourself