by Steve Michael
In this digital age, more and more of us are turning to social media and online, professional networks to build our connections for business and politics. These tools are incredibly useful and have undoubtedly changed the way we do business. However, the number of connections or Facebook friends are not an accurate or dependable metric for the size of your network.
Personal connections still carry incredible weight in the digital world.
Traditional networking and word-of-mouth marketing have found a surprising niche in modern business, especially for smaller companies or independent consultants and contractors. When competing with recognizable brand names, having a personal connection to someone often tips the scales in favor of the person who took the time to network through events, in one-on-one conversations, and going out of their way to meet people.
One study through Yale (1) aggregated the most effective GOTV measures across a variety of issues, demographics, and locations. They concurred that door-to-door canvassing is far and above the most effective and efficient method of voter mobilization. Equally as impressive are personal phone calls, which can be more cost and time effective than going door to door. But the defining feature of both is personal contact. People consistently appreciate being talked to like you care about them.
Too many of us make the mistake of assuming our online networks hold as much clout as our personal networks, but this is sadly not true. Your LinkedIn connections have their own reasons for connecting with you, but not all of them are to help you or support your work. It’s the people you spend time with, go to events with, regularly meet and talk to that comprise your more valuable group of connections
When building new relationships, keep in mind that a professional connection should go both ways. According to Forbes writer Molly Triffin, you need to “show people how they’ll benefit” from the relationship (2). If you’re only serving your own needs, your connections will become less valuable than purely-online connections because you’ll develop a reputation as a leech and a pariah. Offer to help people with their work and you’ll be pleased to see they offer to help you back.
Another valuable tool to remember during networking is to focus on quality, not quantity. If you’re filling a Rolodex with business cards but never getting coffee with the people you’ve met, you have completely missed the point. According to Ivan Misner, a world-renowned networking expert, deep relationships with a few, powerful people will serve you far more than many shallow relationships will (3). Be picky about who you let into your network and prioritize your efforts on strengthening those relationships.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming traditional networking is a thing of the past. Events are still your friend, going to door-to-door is still the most convincing form of voter contact, and taking the time to chat with someone will deepen your relationship more than post-engagement or live streams ever will. My point ultimately is this: if you want a powerful, effective, and intimidating network, spend real time with the people in it. It is through that commitment that you will see your influence grow.
- Yale ISPS, “Lessons from GOTV Experiments”, isps.yale.edu/node/16698
- Triffin, Molly, “8 Secrets from networking Pros”, Forbes, published July 23, 2014
- Misner, Ivan, “Quantity Is Good but Quality Is King in Networking,” Entreprenuer.com, published May 20, 2017