I know I’ve told you it’s important to build a network of social media profiles to grow your visibility, deliver your message more broadly and gain more opportunities to learn from your connections, but I do not subscribe to the belief that mega-networks really pay off. At least not all by themselves. That said, I had a sort of revelation a few weeks ago that changed my mind and helped me see how a large network really could be useful.
I have a couple of monster-networker friends on Linkedin. I’ve always sort of pooh-pooh ed the “LION‘s and the people who had thousands of connections of Linkedin as multi-level-marketing opportunists who figured the more connections they had the more likely the spam they kept throwing out would find a home somewhere. So I pretty much avoided connecting with people who had a LION designation or had thousands of followers.
I answered a question on Linkedin, the person thanked me and asked me to join her network. She’s a mega Linkedin Q&A person, and I could tell from her answers that she gave them some thought and really tried to be helpful. So I connected. Over the last few years I’ve only gotten helpful posts from her, the occasional newsletter, but she’s never once tried to sell me anything. I figured she’s a rare exception to the rule, and when I see something I think will be useful in her business, I send her a shout.
We live thousands of miles apart, so we never connected face to face, but we’ve sort of stayed in touch and whenever there is a Linkedin event in my ‘hood, I often hear about it from her first. That’s how I met mega-networker #2. He was holding an event in San Francisco to meet some of his connections and she passed along the invite to her network in the bay area. I met some really great people at this networking event, and I learned quite a few things about how a real networker creates both a large network and strong relationships. I watched how he made introductions, then encouraged the others to connect and talk among themselves. The event was not about him. It was about the network.
See, the network by itself is only a list of names, job descriptions and resumes. In order to make a humongous network useful you have to go deeper than just making connections. You have to find out about people and connect to them on a deeper level. You need find commonality and a way to be useful to each other. Traveling to a conference in a far away town? Take a look at your network and find out who lives there. Where should you eat? What should you do? Do they have time for coffee? Somebody in your network holding an event you wish you could attend? Who else in your network might like to know about it?
Of course it’s likely you’ll never meet many of the connections you make face to face unless you attend networking events. How else can you be helpful and a valuable addition to their network? Read their blogs and comment or share the link with your networks. Send them an email about something you think they might not know about. Really take the time to find out who they are and why you’re happy to know them. Once you understand what their needs are, start connecting people within your network to each other. You are only the center of your own network from your perspective. Everybody else see it from a different viewpoint.
All this is to say that after all this time I finally see not all mega-networkers are spammers. There truly are people out there who understand the value of relationships and have large networks. So as we’re getting ready for another #FollowFriday on Twitter, take a moment to think about your networks. Who is adding so much value you can’t help but want to share them with the rest of your connections? I think you’ll see it’s worth the time.