You’re Connected, Now What?


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Meeting and friending people has become fairly easy with social networks, live events, and a gazillion ways to locate, like, and follow peers.

How do you stay in touch, especially if across miles? How do you take things to the next level? What makes a connection work to your advantage? And by your I mean both parties involved.

If you're looking for ways to improve how you network and build strong and enduring relationships, this post is for you.

It all starts with the proper lens — putting the emphasis on the work part of network. And a decision: what do you value?

When you start making more decisions based upon value, the return is easier to identify and to measure.

When we don't value what matters, two things happen:

  1. you end up in a "have to" instead of "want to" mindset — not constructive
  2. your own signal gets crowded amidst too much noise — not all activity is good

Good connections help us get support for the projects we're working on and find opportunity. This is as true for business as it is for individuals. Connections are also situational, just like influence. There is tons of great information out there for becoming technically savvy.

Much of that information is literal and can be taken that way.

The challenge is that there are no best practices in being human. Making the connection is not the hardest part. Keeping it is. How do you go about finding ways for it to be mutually beneficial and memorable over the long haul?

You're connected, now what?

  • take notes in the back of the business card about where you met that person and what you talked about, then enter them in your electronic database with their contact information
  • follow up with people right after an event, while the energy from the experience is still high, and it's likely they'd remember it if not you
  • share resources like articles, posts, links, and connections to other people as part of your follow up. Generosity gets you started on a good and memorable footing
  • develop a system to keep track of when you touch base with people after the initial contact.  Things tend to drop off as time goes by, so documenting the time frame is helpful
  • track what you share, or enter notes of the kind of things that person is interested in or is working on, just like you did when you were looking for your first job or the next gig
  • revisit your database or address book periodically to follow up with people you may not have heard from or talked to in a while
  • make it a habit to share with that person special content, leads, helpful things as you come across them. Habits are habit-forming and will allow you to keep the momentum going
  • navigate that fine line between inundating people with stuff and being useful, though. Probably two thirds of what I share is specific and by email with my contacts, for example
  • include a note of why you think the article might be of interest. If you're sending short messages on Twitter, be appropriate — make it meaningful by personalizing the comment
  • find ways to join initiatives or projects by the people with whom you have good affinity and be open to opportunities coming from others you have met
  • make a habit of these activities, learn from what works, improve what doesn't, seek feedback, and stay creative
  • do projects or support an organization that means a lot to your contact over time, either directly or indirectly
  • switch from mentee to mentor, from employee to consultant, from boss to peer in corresponding situations, as appropriate
  • get in touch with your network whenver you travel, if you can ahead of time. Whenver I go to Italy to see my mother, for example, I give the Girl Geek Dinners Bologna a heads up. Both last year and this year, they were kind enough to organize a lovely get together in Bologna, which is just a short train ride from my hometown
  • check out what's going on in your state, city, or region. Another fortunate coincidence of this year's short visit in Modena was joining a PhotoWalk organized by the tourism association of my region, Emilia Romagna on a gorgeous Saturday evening and meeting many local and international photographers and friends
  • have fun and don't get discouraged by occasional dips in communication and silences, people do get busy

Connections are a gift. When you put a little bit of effort in maintaining them, you'll be surprised at the developments and possibilities they bring into your work, and life. And often it's the connections of the people you meet — the weak ties — that end up making a difference.

This works with clients and customers as well.

Whether you use social networks, email, even snail mail (I still send paper thank you cards and books to my contacts), staying in touch after getting in touch is the secret to making connections that work.

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Have you found creative ways to stay in touch with people met through social networks? Do you visit with people in person when you travel? What's the most challenging part of staying in touch for you?

 

[updated from the archives]

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