I was reading about this interview on publishing and thought Tim Carmody's remarks on publishing would make fertile ground for a conversation on networking.
Specifically, extrapolating from his points:
- inevitability is not inevitable
- experiences are not confined to a specific form
- a tier model can work
There's a reason why whenever I talk about connections, I bring up some corollaries, like attention, time, ability to listen, etc.
Connecting through networking is more likely to happen when you develop certain habits in the way you present yourself, meet people, and follow through.
It's no accident that the most read and shared post in the last six months is the 12 habits of highly connective people.
Most people have a good idea of what they're looking to accomplish in a networking situation. I tested this. Ask the person who approaches you next time. They know.
Yet, it's often quite hard to figure it out from how the interaction goes.
Let's take a look at the three points above for some information on what's going on.
Inevitability is not inevitable
They say showing up is 80% of success in life.
What many forget is that the remaining 20% — follow through, relevance, situational awareness, a dash of patience — is what makes showing up work for you. It's the hardest part.
Serendipity is just the beginning. It takes work to turn it into a connection that leads to something — partnership, project, deal, etc. — down the road.
The reason why it's easy to get sidetracked once you form your own plans on follow through is that you start looking at what others are doing.
Maybe you go online and search for more advice, or take advice that has worked for someone else who has a different philosophy to yours.
There could also be a touch of forgetfulness — you forget your promise, and end up taking a card exchange and brief conversation as granted access.
Anyone who's ever been subscribed automatically to newsletters without opting in appreciates the difference.
Experiences are not confined to a specific form
Generalizations about what to do and how many times may seem to work really well for using Google+, or Twitter, or Facebook, just like in fraternities and sororities.
This is valid for professional associations, local networking events, conferences, and so on.
Knowing the hand shakes and rituals is not going to help you if you continue to be viewed as an outsider by the clan you're trying to connect with.
A better approach is to figure out the mix that works for your specific style, point of view, and needs. Once you figure out how you want to relate, you get to work.
There's no need to try and fit in when it's not a good fit for you in the first place. Build a context that works for you and your business across whichever networks get you traction.
Then your tribe will be able to identify you.
Have fun trying out a few things, too.
A tier model can work
It works with content, and it works with networking.
I view online content as a form of networking for ideas. Does your story come across clearly no matter the level of access people have with you?
Think about how you prefer people to contact you, for example. I updated the image of my own business card in this post to reflect changed preferences.
Say it's more effective for you to spend time in a paid membership network or community to nurture your existing relationships.
Offline, it could be a service that rents offices by the day, or a co-working space.
Then you mix in a couple of Twitter chats, or specific threads and groups on other social networks, depending on your criteria to evaluate how you want to spend your time.
You're in charge of your schedule. To me, more is not necessarily better. Can you keep more promises, better? There goes the "always on" myth.
What works for me may not necessarily work for you.
When I look at my mix, I consider it part of my buy strategy. As part of that, I seek enough information about a situation — community membership, volunteer activity, paid professional event, using one network vs. another — to answer the real question:
Is this a good use of my time and energy?
The problem, as I see it, is that many sites, businesses, services, people, are too used to trying to convince me instead of giving me enough information so I can convince myself it's a good deal.
How does the realization that your customers, buyers, and prospects are looking for that from you change the way you do things?
Inevitability is not inevitable; generalizations are often unhelpful (not enough information); where does it make sense to tier your networking to make better promises and connections?
I tried something new to find the image for this post. I asked the community of photographers on G+ to suggest an image. Building bridges author Caroline di Diego suggested an image from Patrick Prothe.
When I made my inquiry with Prothe, I also learned that he has posted his photography project 20 Bridges to kickstarter. He agreed to my posting the image of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport – now 75 years old.
I think it's stunning — and it is a pefect complement to the message in this post: Connections that stand the test of time take time to build.
[image courtesy of Patrick Prothe]