Social Networking can destroy relationships if not carefully implemented. Shifting from an outcomes based approach to a nurturing approach can yield results without losing the crop.

Social media has proven to be one of the most meaningful advances in the way humans communicate since the start of the internet. This is saying quite a lot – since the invention of the internet is itself a pretty big deal. Technology has shortened the distance between people. It also provides freedoms that were culturally and socially impossible until now.

Many of us can feel it in our guts. The connections with people are real, even though the transaction occurs in cyberspace. Friends and families out there in the social network have the power to change individual lives, open hearts, and grow minds. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to try to make money by exploiting these systems.

The wealth of articles about using twitter for business gain are increasing almost as fast as the twitter user base. Just when you thought you were free of spam – twitter spam is upon us. Don’t lose heart all is not yet lost to a frenzy of junk posts at 140 characters a piece.

The unscrupulous among us are missing the point. By reducing social media to a money machine they are downgrading their own potential. They are like alchemists in reverse, turning gold into lead. Opportunistic to a fault they sell tomorrow for today and lose both in the process.

In all business even manufacturing or product sales there is only one true criteria that stands above the rest. Service. Good service is better than the finest wine, and we offer it freely to our friends. The things we offer freely to our network of friends and family are the things that can’t be easily traded. Consideration, interest, care, equity – these are the traits of meaningful relationships and good service.

Is it unreasonable to expect to make money using networking? Absolutely not! However, if all you want is money it will show. Thriving networks are not cultivated with a bottom line, nor a balance sheet. They do not grow in ink or paper. Thriving networks that bear fruit are fed by the same behaviors that bind fathers and sons, sisters and brothers, neighbors and patriots. Service.

There is no faster way to kill a network than by polluting it with blatant solicitation. Trust does not grow easily when the first words in a conversation are “how much money is in your wallet?” In the same way, Biznik, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn all become cheapened by those who use them for money first, and service second.

When is it appropriate to market? The answer, truly, is when there is no expectation on the part of the marketer. ¬†When it doesn’t interfere with service first and gain second – then send a tweet about something you are working on. Tough times are upon all of us. Now is not the time to bring money into conversations and relationships. But you can always help others that is rarely an uncomfortable situation.

Keep your eyes open for opportunity. See where you can help others by offering goods or services. See where you can help others by referring them to the services they need. Be honest where you have a need yourself and allow others to help you fill it. Build a network of people who can help each other and grow stronger for having you around.

Moving from the mindset of harvesting networks for ripe produce, you become a grower, a cultivator and a nurturing provider of others. Doing so will encourage others to nourish you and your business. Don’t let the pressure of adversity change your core beliefs – when adversity is behind you, the consequences of your actions will be felt and remembered.