Start Networking When You Don’t Need To
Most people start networking when they need something. This is the worst time because you’ll tend to ask people for things, and networking is all about giving, not asking. If you don’t “need” more connections now, start working on getting some!
Use Social Media to Learn More About Your Connections
Last week I met with a prospect. Before meeting with her, I did a little research and she had posted to Twitter that her daughter was sick. When we met, I asked her if her daughter was feeling better. This only works if you really care; don’t try to fake interest. Before talking to someone, check their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. Have you found photos of their last vacations, a blog post they shared or a video they liked? All those things will give you topics to talk about.
When Possible, Get Introduced by a Common Connection
In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi talks about “warm calls” and explains why they’re so much better than cold calls. Basically, in a warm call, you ask someone you know to introduce you to the person you want to meet. Both Facebook and LinkedIn show you the connections that you and someone else have in common. Ask these people to introduce you to the person you want to network with. Who Follows Whom is a Twitter tool that shows you the followers that you and someone else have in common. I use it all the time.
Use the “Six Degrees of Separation” Concept to Your Advantage
This concept says that you and any other person in the world are separated by no more than six connections. For example, let’s say you want to connect with Mick Jagger. You email all your friends and ask them who’s a Rolling Stones fan. You find a few fans and you ask them if they are active members of a fan club. Two of them are. You ask them to introduce you to the president of the fan club, who happens to be in touch with the agent who represents Mick Jagger and she can connect him and you.
Of course, you need to give these people a very good reason to connect you with the next link in the chain, but assuming you do have a great reason, approaching Mick Jagger this way is a lot more effective than writing him a letter out of the blue.
Follow Up After the Initial Contact
Right after you meet someone, email or call them with your contact information again and thank them for meeting with you. At most networking events, people meet a lot of new people so this is a great way of being remembered.
Talk to Strangers
As human beings, we always do a lot of profiling. We decide whether a person will help us or not even before talking to them. The truth is that most of my valuable contacts were people I never thought I could work with and I never really connected with some folks who seemed like the perfect match. Keep your mind open and don’t discard opportunities too soon.
Use the Internet to Find Networking Opportunities
There are three website I constantly use to meet people wherever I go:
MeetUp. The largest in-person networking site in the world.
Eventful. Find a list of networking events in your area or post your own.
MeetingWave. One of my favorite in-person networking communities on the web.