Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Your network is arguably our greatest business asset- we want it to be big and strong and full of quality people who we have quality relationships with – which eventually leads to more sales, better jobs or happiness.
This is true if you’re Bicycle Wheel or Spider (see my post What type of Networker are You? (Bicycle Wheel or Spider?)).
Building new connections can be quite easy – inviting people to connect is only one click away (it’s too easy really… connections this easy to establish can’t all be high quality).
A valuable connection is one where you engage and connect in a meaningful way that actually produces a real benefit, like a sale or job-offer.
This can take time. It involves nurturing.
To get there, we have to regularly engage with our connections, but without being too overbearing or annoying. We have to ‘touch’ our connections many times: frequently intriguing them, sometimes provoking them, always delighting them.
You will require a number of strategies in your kit-bag, because some people will ‘opt-in’ to engaging with you on some channels – and some people will ‘opt-out’. Not everyone is interested in everything you have to say or ask.
I have listed three strategies that you can trial to increase your engagement and maintain your network of connections:
- Connect with your network through all available social media channels, appropriately. My primary social networking tool is LinkedIn, but I also use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus to connect. I connect with some people on all of these channels. But each Social Network has its raison d’etre, strengths and weaknesses, and I am therefore selective about which network I use for different people. I do this not for privacy reasons, or to create factions, instead it is to ensure that my engagement is appropriate. Some people say that to behave with integrity, this shouldn’t matter (and to a large extent, I agree) – but there are people I know who are interested in personal posts about my son’s judo tournament on Facebook, and some less so. And some would be downright turned off by them.
- Build an email list and make it personal. Create a personal email list, using Mailchimp or similar, and engage with these people directly. You might choose to use this for more personal updates where you wouldn’t want the content to appear indelibly in the public eye. It’s a way of sharing the ‘deeper you’. This is something I have seen a few of my connections do, with great effect. One friend sends out insights and analyses about the Financial Services industry, a couple times a week. He has cultivated a list of close allies and keeps in touch with them regularly. He knows his audience – and creates and curates content that he knows will pique the interest of the people in his list. But this is a ‘Bicycle Wheel’ tactic. He uses email to distribute content to his list, and preserves the privacy of his members. This is an effective tactic for drip-feeding content to connections, broadcast, without encouraging or enabling a ‘buzz’ between contacts themselves.
- Set up an event. This doesn’t have to be a business event. It could be something simple like a get together in a bar or a restaurant. Or bowling. Whatever. This is a great way to introduce your network to each other (Spider-style) and to create a non-pushy, relaxed environment. You and your network, shooting the breeze. For some workaholics, though, this isn’t a reason to leave the office early. They won’t come to your event and drink your beer or wine or eat your canapés. So you could create an event that is business-focused with a relevant business theme – such as your product. The networking that occurs at these events can be as valuable as getting a sale in itself (as long as it results in a sale!). Be wary, though, that your connections don’t perceive that you’re abusing your relationship (especially if still tenuous at the early stages). Imagine if you made a new friend, and then you are persuasively invited to go along to an event shrouding a timeshare sales pitch of which you had no interest in or desire of? You’d be p*d off, right?
However you choose to maintain connectivity and then build momentum, the point is to do it appropriately and to nurture your relationships. Not all your connections are interested in the same things, and want to be engaged in the same way. Some of this will be based on ‘test and measure’ – where you will try a number of strategies to discover how your connections engage best. Just one strategy will not work, so you have to experiment to find those that do work.
Unless you test, you cannot measure.