Business networks are the rolodexes of today. It’s not so much who’s in your address book that counts, it’s who is in your business network that counts more. And your value to the network is related to the value of your network. That’s because business networks make what used to be invisible visible, by putting all your contacts and connections out in the open where others can have access to them.
Social Networks Have Become the New Tribes
Human beings have a profound need for belonging, whether you call it company, family, community or tribe. We want to and need to click or connect with others. Social networks have become the new tribes. Now belonging is as easy as registering and filling out our profile, and making or finding a few contacts or ‘friends.’ Staying connected is much easier, too. Twitter even brings it into real time. Opinions are everywhere, and people love to share them, so in your social network connections you can easily find people to discuss just about anything. And you can learn from the brightest minds.
Author Tom Peters used to say that ‘he who dies with the biggest Rolodex wins.’ Business networks are the rolodexes of today. It’s not so much who’s in your address book that counts, it’s who is in your business network that counts more. And your value to the network is related to the value of your network. That’s because business networks make what used to be invisible visible, by putting all your contacts and connections out in the open where others can have access to them. .
But making connections with the connections of your connections requires a careful dance. Because if you ask to be connected without an introduction, the person seeking quality in their network is likely to decline. And if you ask for someone’s business merely because they are on the same network as you, the odds are good that your offer will be declined. Whether offline or on, you need to start and then build a relationship before you can do much with it. You need to ‘click’ first.
To click with your new tribe, I offer you these cautions:
1. Don’t Spam your Network. SPAM, rather than the canned ham product, is an unsolicited commercial message sent electronically. The fastest way to keep a connection from happening is to try selling your ideas, products or services to people who don’t know you. That’s likely to be perceived, rightly, as SPAM. And I’ll say it again. DON’T SPAM YOUR NETWORK!
2. Don’t Be a Stranger. Learn something before saying something. Tell people how you found them, or find out how they found you. Find a reason to make the connection interesting. That’s different than a generic, “Hi, I found you and thought your resume was interesting.” Strangers talk in such big generalizations. When it’s personal, people click. Find something personal around which to connect.
3. You get out what you put in. Instead of asking for something, offer something. And I’m not talking about a free sample, either. Tell the network what you bring to it, whether it is knowledge, ability, or connections. Then make what makes you valuable to the network available to the network.
Online networks take time. Not a lot of time, but the more consistently you contribute to your online presence, the more likely you are to gain recognition and make connections with valuable allies and friends.
4. Go fast by slowing down. Years back, I read a satirical book called the One Minute Maniac. It talked about Turbo Networking. That’s where you rush up to people and say, “Hi, what’s in it for me?” That’s annoying, and adds pressure to an already pressure-cooked world. Yes, electronic communication happens at the speed of, well, electrons. But human beings tend not to move quite so fast when it comes to relationship building. Think of time as an ally. Take as much of it as you need to build some relationship before trying to get someone to click with you or your idea.
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