Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!
I am the first to confess that I did not "get" Biznik when I first encountered it.
What was up with the cute name and the forum boosterism? Seemed pretty at odds with a saucy tagline ("Business networking that doesn't suck.") Mostly, why were these people all so goddamn friendly?
It took a month-long trip up to Seattle last year to see the light: Biznik, the site works because it's designed to develop Biznik, the real-life community. These are not people who just hang out on the Internet all the time (although some hang out a lot of the time, I'll tell you); these are people using the web, and specifically Biznik, to cultivate relationships that they then take offline, a.k.a. "meatspace," a.k.a. "the actual three-dimensional world." The easy-to-use interface that lets them sort and connect and reach out and share helps like-minded people save time and shoe leather and agita by doing a lot of the heavy lifting of maintaining relationships, which is really the small, upkeep-type stuff that falls by the wayside without these tools.
So on Biznik, you can write an article about your area of expertise or interest, then publish it for a pre-selected group of interested people to read. You can read other people's stuff and start conversations about it, or chat on message boards, or use any number of other tools, search, email, forums, groups, to get to know them, sifting and sorting online so you're not walking into a room cold when you do finally venture out. Rather than certain other networking sites where people go just to sleaze off the land and skim off what they can, you're building something cool every time you connect on, and then off of it.
A caution or two if you decide to jump in.
First, give it time. Like any new spot, it takes a while to get the lay of the land. Click around, see what's up, get comfortable. Read the "about" page and skim the FAQ to get a feel for the way things work there. And for a view from someone who's been there/done that, here's a very illuminating "best practices" post from my former coach/mentor, Ilise Benun, who PUSHED me into Biznik.
Second, give it attention. Most great things in life get that way because you apply yourself to them, and this is no exception. I didn't start "getting" Biznik, much less getting much out of it, until my trip to the PacNW last year, where, after going to several events and co-hosting a few, I finally got the hell out of it.
I know that no one has time to waste on social networking (unless they're playing those damned word games on Facebook, in which case they appear to have all the time in the world). Ultimately, what I love about Biznik, other than the fine, fine people I've met through it, is the idea of what it could become: a built-in network of awesome people you can tap into anywhere you go. Toastmasters runs on this model: as a member you are warmly welcomed as a guest at any Toastmasters meeting you attend, anywhere in the world. Show up in Beijing or Manchester or Sao Paulo and POOF!, you've got insta-community.
With enough of us onboard, I can see Biznik becoming a mini-version of this for indie biz types as they make their way around the world, helping to connect the people and passion that, in combination, make great things start happening.
Photos of various Bizniks by various other Bizniks grabbing Dyana Valentine's camera.