I recently connected on Facebook with a childhood friend I haven’t seen or heard from since 5th grade. We were both amazed by the fact that we remembered so much about each other after all of these years.
It got me to thinking that for our next generation. When friends move away, social media tools allow them to stay in touch forever. Certainly Facebook and all of the other social media tools will evolve in the future. Ten years from now, who knows what tools will exist or how they will work. What we do know is that staying connected is here to stay.
The ease of networking
I’ve discussed in this blog in the past the importance of networking for consultants. This experience made me realize how easy it is to do now… if only we would do it.
In my desk at home I have a stack of about 500 or so business cards that I’ve collected throughout the years. I’ve met countless people in meetings, conferences, training classes, etc. and exchanged tons of business cards with people that I remember vaguely if at all.
So I did a little experiment. I selected 100 random business cards from my stack of people that I am not connected with, and looked up each person on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Keep in mind that some of these cards are several years old. Some of these people may be retired or have even passed on. Many of the names may have changed due to marriage or divorce.
The statistics on the number of people I found on these various social media sites are as follows:
This was eye opening to say the least. Although this is not a scientific study, extrapolating this out to the 500 cards that I have, if I had actively networked with these people and maintained relationships, I could have over 200 additional people in my network. I figure that of the 45 that I could find on LinkedIn, I can realistically expect about 11 or 12 to remember me. It’s probably too late to reconnect with the remaining ones and expect them to accept a connect request.
Collecting names is not networking
But if I connect with any of these people on any of these sites and then do nothing, it would be the electronic version of stacking business cards in my desk and doing nothing. Before social media existed, it was much more difficult. We had to rely on phone calls and traditional mail to keep in touch. Once email came into widespread use, we could use it to more effectively stay in touch.
Today’s social media applications allow us to interact with these contacts with very little time and effort. We can share information with all of our contacts with posts; interact with them directly with messaging capabilities; or join virtual communities based on industry, technical skills, alumni group or any other aspect that you have in common with that person.
So, just like the old days, we can still make lots of connections and collect names. If that’s all we do, we just end up with a lot of empty connections that serve no benefit for either party. The tools we now have available make it so easy to interact, that it’s ridiculous not to.
Networking: Interaction and availability
Some people have trouble networking thinking that it’s about taking advantage of your connections when you need them – or them taking advantage of you. But networking is not about collecting contacts in case you need them someday. It’s about interacting and being available to help if you’re needed. If you’re doing business right, you help out both sides with each transaction.
What have you done today to enhance your network?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.