For me, my network is just a group of friends and acquaintances, who help me, and who I help. My approach to networking is simple - in any opportunity to meet and network with people, I am always thinking - who can I help here? Yes, some of it is because of the goodness of my heart! But some of it is that I strongly believe in the principle of reciprocity - if you help someone, they must help you. In words of Dr. Cialdini (world famous Professor of Psychology, and arguably the world’s most well known expert on Influence) “Society works because of the principle of reciprocity - people can freely exchange resources, because they know that they are not giving them away. When they need them, they will receive them back in return.” And it’s not that I keep a count who I asked for favors from, and who I gave favors to. There are people who have helped me immeasurably, and I have hardly ever done anything for them. And there are some people who I have helped more. It all adds up in the end in a giant pool of reciprocity.
But the more your network grows, the harder it is to keep in touch with everyone. I try to keep in touch with some means:
1. Email Reconnect - every year, I try to send an update to whoever I think might be interested in hearing from me. It works great, and people update me with what’s going on in their lives, call me etc.
2. Commenting on posts on LinkedIn, Facebook
3. Sharing articles - whenever I come across something useful for someone, I share it with them
4. Making introductions is a great way, as in my mind, you are doing something good for the person who wants to be introduced to someone, and the someone who he/she wants to be introduced to (as long as the match is appropriate). Always do check with both people before you actually send out an introduction emails
5. What I am terrible at is actually calling people - definitely need to get better at this
Technology related to networking has been there for a while, from address book utilities like Plaxo, to email software like Xobni.
Recently though I have come across other technology that could take building and maintaining a network one step forward. Let’s look at some of them.
- Cloze is a promising ‘interaction organizer’ that adds a context for every conversation. I have not been able to try the software yet, but based on their video, it does sounds promising. The idea is simple - aggregate all contact info, conversations, and present them when it matters (e.g., when you are email a person, talking to them etc.). The MA based company has raised $1.2M, and is in private beta.
- Another interesting company is NetworksIgnite, started by my friend from Kellogg, Rajus Korde. The company attempts to answer the question - when should you follow up?
- There have been several apps to meet people/network at conferences such as Plug from Mobinett, Pathable etc.
- Apps that try to eliminate business cards, like Bump and a variety of others. None of these appears to have succeeded though, as there hasn’t been a single platform that everyone has moved to.