Social network sites (SNS) have been defined by one source as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system; (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” 
On the other hand, business networking has been defined as “the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients and/or customers”
Arguing that the purpose of business networking is “to increase business revenue – one way or another”, the authors further point out that effective business networking requires the ability to focus on how you can help the person you are listening to (a.k.a as “connection” in LinkedIn), “rather than on how he or she can help you”.
It does not require a degree in rocket science to figure out that the concept of business networking as articulated above requires an underpinning philosophy. That underpinning philosophy, I suggest, is ESI: Enlightened Self-Interest. What is your first reaction to this concept? Does it repulse you? Is it synonymous with using people? Survival of the fittest? Stepping on others?
Let us not confuse ESI with its very distant cousin, PSI (Pure Self-Interest). The latter is an attention to and focus on one’s interest without any regard at all for the interest of others. Splitting hairs, you say? Not at all! PSI is about taking without giving, winning and never losing, survival of the fittest. ESI, on the other hand, is about win-win…about mutuality; that is true business networking!
ESI goes beyond lead generation. Lead generation presupposes a seller and a prospect; once the prospect-connection has been located it only remains to zap him or her with the sales pitch! On the contrary, ESI is an attitude that results in a particular approach to your connections especially on social networking websites where the “connection” does not have to be the prospect, that is, the object of a sale pitch!
But implementing ESI is easier said than done. In part 2, I examine the somewhat problematic issue of implementation in the context of social networking sites such as LinkedIn. In the meantime: all in favour of ESI say “I”!