Are you networking or just adding contacts?

“Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?” (defined by www.businessdictionary.com)

“A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest”. (dictionary.reference.com)

“The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”. (Merriam-Webster)

Three definitions for networking. All of them have in common: group of people, same interest, and share information. One that I have not seen in any of them: “must be virtual”.

When I read these definitions and thought about all the social media channels that we all have been using, some questions popped in my mind: are we really using the social media channels for the right purposes? What are we using social media for?

The one that stuck deeply with me though was: have we forgotten how to network in person? Have we forgotten that we can meet people, build productive relationships and do business in person?

I am a networker. Period. There is no doubt about it. I believe in relationships, in exchanging experiences, in the power of a smile. I believe in helping and asking for help. I still believe in people.

Don’t take me wrong: not only I work in social media by I really love it! I monitor, I manage branding, I write content. I read feedback, I answer questions, I leverage social promotions. I write BOP and train/coach social media associates.

But I meet people. I really do. I meet them for a casual coffee, for a touch base lunch, for a brainstorming occasional bowling match.

I guess what I am trying to say, is that I use social media, whether personal sites like Facebook or professional ones like Linkedin to start the “connection”. And from there, I really develop some really productive professional long-lasting relationships.

I am obviously not saying that you should stop with your virtual networks, or that you will be able to meet the 2,000 “contacts” that you have, but I am saying that, “connecting” with people by having them accept your “invites”, does not really make them part of your network. It makes them part of a list. My question is simple: how many “contacts” have you actually interacted with in the past week? How many interesting articles that your “contacts” shared with your network have you really read, or took the time to comment on, adding something useful to the other “contacts” of your list? How many times have you reached out to someone in your “list” to ask for advice? Or to be your mentor?

I cannot tell you how many times I tried to reach out to “contacts” in my list (who accepted my invite, right?) and have never heard back – not even the shortest note. Or, how many times I was contacted by “someone” in my list asking for my resume, or for business insights or even for references on a colleague, and once I responded, either they have never gotten back to me, or they responded “I passed it to someone else”. Or, even when I said “let’s chat over coffee”, the networking stopped right there.

Professional relationships are based on business interests, yes.

However, the owners, presidents, managers, employees of those business are PEOPLE.

And people have a special way to exchange information. How many times have you heard “it is not about WHAT you said, but about HOW you said it”?

How you work your network makes all the difference on the kind of return you will get: are you making time to feed your relationships with knowledge, experience, insights, support, advice or simply a warm “I am here for you”?

So, is this really networking? Are we really “accepting invites” or inviting people to connect to build relationships, exchange experiences, solidifying partnerships, or are we just making them “a number in our list”?

So, it does not matter if you use the social media channels or your were able to develop a “live relationship” with another person/professional, think about the right reason for networking and what networking is really about. Do not make your contacts just another number, make sure that you interact, there your networking have a purpose and take the best from it.

What kind of interaction do you have with your network?

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2 Responses

  1. I interact and send out invites to connect. I have found several leads to positions. It is what you make out of the connection. It is just (1) tool to use in your job search.

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