Back in June, I wrote about whether companies will value your personal network. It’s a topic I think about constantly because I’ve seen time and time again the value of my own network. I use some amount of that value every day. And I spend a portion of each day threading the social needle.
Two great posts over the last few days show me that it’s not just me thinking about this. Tim Sanders says we should refresh our network often, and Jeremiah Owyang reports on the the risks and opportunities inherent in your network. It’s all pointing towards the same thing: you’ve got to think consciously about how you use social networks, and you have to build relationships that are decoupled from goals.
Keep Your Network Alive
Christopher S Penn quotes me all the time in presentations on my saying, “You live or die by your database.” Remember that I do lots of events, and that’s partially why I say that, but it’s also true for people in all areas of business. Think about this:
If you lose your job today, how many people can you reach, and who would be helpful? Think harder about the names of those people. Have you talked with them lately in ANY form?
How do you stay connected to your network’s news? Do you watch the news stream on LinkedIn? Do you watch the updates on Facebook, Friendfeed, and other social networks? 20 minutes or less on these platforms often gives you some interesting pieces of information, and might sometimes prompt a message out to people in your network.
Some practices to consider:
- Spend 20 minutes a day observing your network. If someone is mostly offline and not a social network user, spend a few minutes sending out a few “checking in” emails to get a read on her world.
- Spend 10 minutes a day (I spend a bit more here) cultivating new relationships. This can be through participation on social networks, through reading new blogs and commenting, through, attending face-to-face events, or many other things. If you’re not growing your network, you’re stagnating.
- Use an organized contact management system, but also keep frequent backup copies of those system’s files in CSV or XLS form somewhere safe. (Meaning, don’t trust online platforms 100% with your data). I’m using BatchBook right now (disclosure: they gave me a complementary license for a review, but they’re still inexpensive, even if you pay).
- Never, never, never pound that list of names with dumb jokes, updates about your life (unless it’s something insanely profound), or other clutter. Try not to message everyone ever. Instead, segment information such that you talk to the people that matter to the topic at hand.
- Deliver two to three times as much value as you ask from your network. This keeps people eager to be helpful when the time comes that you need them.
- Never make a huge deal out of helping others in your network.
- It’s okay to say no (politely!) to requests for access through your network, should you be concerned about the intent of the person asking.
Tell Me About Your Network
How has your network impacted the way you live or conduct business? Do you belong to any networks, online or off, that have driven value back to you? (My CEO is a Harvard Business School graduate and the database he can touch is astounding.) How are you keeping your database fresh and vibrant?
And finally, are you living your online life consciously with regards to building and maintaining a meaningful network?
The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.
Photo credit, ladybug 78