It’s never the number. It’s what you can do with it. This applies to lots of things. It doesn’t matter if you drive 3000 people to your store, if no one rings the cash register. Who cares how many people follow you on Twitter if you can’t motivate them to participate with you on any level? But how do you cultivate an active network?
It Starts With Being Helpful
I’ve come to realize something: there are people who can be helpful, and then there are people who offer their help over and over. Guess which one is really helpful?
If you can jump in and participate, or point out the kinds of people who you know can help others, that’s a great way to start cultivating an active network. We all respond well to someone who is quick to help.
Online and off, the person who gets the most out of a network is the person who is actively tapping it. You can’t always contribute to every event, but how often can you be absent from a network before it no longer “remembers” you?
Visit with your network and contribute on a regular basis. Notice that I say “contribute” and not “just leave a message.”
Touch As Many as Possible
One way to keep a network vibrant and response is to touch everyone you can. Talk to them. Absorb some of what they’re working on or inquire about their passions. The more you can contribute to others, if only by communicating and participating in some small way, the more likely you’re building reciprocal relationships.
Talk About Them
If you’re communicating in some kind of “one to many” way with your network, make it peppered with stories about them. In our Trust Agents community, Julien and I look for what our group members have shared on their own Facebook networks, and we pull in the occasional related piece. Because we’re asking people to participate in our community, we make sure to keep the chairs turned in so that we interact instead of pontificate and preach from the pulpit.
Deliver Value Back
For every time you ask your network for something, try and give something back in return. The more you can leverage the contributions of your network such that they serve you and return a value, the better things work. If I join the Sharpie Uncapped community, not only can I contribute my art and ideas, but I can benefit form the people who have also shared. The creators of the community (Sharpie markers and their agency) have this built such that everyone gets something for their interaction.
Can you deliver value back for the value you asked?
Active Networks are Your Capital
You probably do know the difference between being connected to a network of sorts versus participating in an active network of like-minded people who share disparate but compatible goals. In the first case, you feel great until you need something. In the second case, you know that people have your back and that you can deliver as much help as possible until the time when you, yourself, might have to call on the network.
Invest and you’ll see a return. Start an account without much interest and you’ll get back only what you put in.
Do you belong to an active network?
(Want to see an active network in action?)