Social networking is becoming an increasingly important part of society in general and business in particular. Major corporations are investing in social networking websites and technologies.
However, in an economy and job market where social networks are more important than ever, most of us do not capture the value that we potentially could out of our social and professional networks.
First of all, most people think of networking as temporary and episodic, for example, as a way to get a job or close a deal, instead of as an ongoing process. This is a mistake for many reasons. Networking only when you "have to" means that you will likely be anxious and stressed, and be more focused on what you need from your network than on what you can offer it. A better practice is to network when you don't need anything in particular, and to focus more on what you can do for others than on what they can do for you.
Secondly, people often make the mistake of thinking that the best way to keep in touch with people is to update them about your activities and accomplishments. While this can be helpful at times, a better strategy is to keep track of their activities and accomplishments, for example by using tools like Google News Alerts, which enable you to enter in the names of people, organizations, or topics that you'd like to be automatically notified about. When setting up a news alert, it's helpful to use quotes around search terms so that you only get alerted when exact terms are matched.