There’s just something about the word “networking” that leaves me cold.
I think it’s the “working” part of that word; it somehow seems to imply that we are “working over” our friends, colleagues and anyone who’s ever crossed our paths in life for our own gain. I don’t really relish the idea of being networked like that, and I image most people don’t.
So collectively as a group at Tier One, we try to help clients think in terms of “connecting.” This speaks more to the ideas of reciprocity, mutual interests and sharing. You might think of this as “what you have to say or offer is interesting to me for this reason, and I might have something that is interesting to you for this other reason. “ It might just seem like semantics, but we think it represents a difference in mindset and motive that people can sense and causes them to react differently.
To avoid coming off as “Mr./Ms. what can you do for me?” and create more successful connections, how about trying the following:
Emphasize the link when Linking-In.
When sending a Linked-In request, don’t just settle for the pat “I’d like you to join my network...” language. Tell the person what it is you truly like about them and your reason for wanting to stay connected:
“I remember when we worked together, there wasn’t anybody who got the user experience like you. It’s great to see what you’re doing now and I’d really like to stay connected.”
Exercise the 60-second phone call (or the random-kindness tweet).
I’d like to say I’m great at this, but it’s really my husband who does this better than anyone I know. He just picks up the phone or shoots out an email whenever he sees something that reminds him of a friend or business associate. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed since he’s spoken with that person, he just starts with, “Hey, I read something today that made me think of you. I’m going to send it; see what you think. By the way, how’s everything going?” His connections really mean something because they are genuine, personal and put the other person first. People always take his call. A tweet or Facebook wall post, directed to your friend’s handle, can accomplish the same quick, but meaningful, connection.
Extend your connections to others.
I was on the phone recently with a prospective client who told me about an old friend of his living and working in New England. This friend runs an interactive agency and the prospect suggested I reach out to learn more about what they do and just connect with another agency head. This man didn’t have to offer up his connection and there really wasn’t anything in it for him, but he did so purely because he thought his friend and I might benefit from knowing each other. This exchange happened via phone, but would’ve been just as effective via a LinkedIn introduction, a tweet, or a Facebook private message. I appreciated that gesture and am already thinking of ways to repay the favor.
For an excellent example of a company that has made an art of nurturing connections with and among its customers, see online broker TradeKing’s online community where investors connect all the time to share ideas: http://community.tradeking.com/
We like the word “connecting” because it implies that you get it, the pieces fit and you’ve made something happen. And consequently you’ve taken the “work” out of networking.