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Are You Building your Network the Wrong Way?

I’m not sure I do a great job at building up my network and actively keeping in touch. I’m human after all and it’s hard to keep up-to-date with people. An indictor of this goes back to back to 2004, when the average address book supposedly had just a hundred contacts, whereas today we’ve likely got well over a thousand contacts. As the world continues to feel smaller as our network broadens across multiple industries, we struggle to keep up to date with the people we had previously identified as being of value to us.

tl;dr

  • To invest in building up your network, you need to have the foundation of consolidated information on all your contacts, both personal and professional.
  • With new communication tools being created every year (think WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger, SnapChat), the details of our network is fragmented and so too is the specific details of each contact.
  • Enable your network to curate worthwhile news and information of interest.

Relationships will be a measure of my success. Think about it. When I’m older I want to be able to look back on all the people I’ve met, both in a personal and professional setting, to remember the adventures we embarked on and the stories we can retell. This is your network, made up of the people you’ve worked with, met at events or on trips – ultimately these are the people you have a shared interest in and a shared reason to spend time with each other.
Not too long ago, I was shocked by a previous manager who told me not to care about my network. “No one cares that you moved into a new job” he said, not realising what value I continue to put on it.

For argument sake, let’s say you’ve met each one of these “contacts” for a cup of coffee. You’ve shared an hour of your time to get to know each other and share interests. You’ll decide if you have things in common or not, and you’ll likely share interesting articles or books to read. You may not meet again, except chat via email one and a while.

Let’s face it, keeping track of your family and friends ongoings can be tough day to day. Now imagine trying to do that with your professional network too where we only keep up to date from time to time. To be a good relationship builder and “networker” (a dreaded term) you need to keep up to date on your personal contact list.

What I’ve Done
We need to establish a base, a foundation of all our contacts. Imagine your network is the central hub of a wheel. There resides the full and up to date address book on all your contacts across all your networks, communication apps, and social media sites. You have pulled in all the information, and now your choosing what tools you want to give access to it.
I’ve been researching this product for the past year, and I’ve tested products like Mingly and Luper. I’ve even followed Steve Greenwood’s journey at Brewster, but they are not moving fast enough in the past 12 months.

One core problem remained to be unsolved and to give you an idea; my iOS contacts are across 5 email accounts totalling 3,456 individuals, I no longer hold quality engagements on Facebook with my 1,609 friends, Linkedin has 1567 connections. In fact, Steve says we use an average of 8 communications apps today.
I’ve no way to make simple searches like who’s in New York this week or who’s a journalist that I can talk to.

I finally tested out FullContact. I know they have their issues but their app gives me the control to delete and and merge updated contact details from my address book and social streams.

This is not an easy task. I’ll have spent an age updating my contacts and social connections:

  • 4 hours on Twitter, culling the 1900 accounts I follow down to 666)
  • 1 hour on FB unfollow/unfriend
  • 2 hours on Linkedin culling non-connections
  • 8 hours using FullContact (~1.2mins per quality contact)
  • Total of 15 hrs to get information in order (nearly 2 industry standard work days)

As you’ll have invested a lot of time in your network now, my advice is to keep this updated at least every year. FullContact even scores and helps identify updates for you to qualify. Do it now, you won’t regret it.

NOTE: Take Ownership of your Network
I recently spotted a sneaky move by Linkedin to gain more users on their platform. I connected my iOS Contacts to my account there to enhance the data in Linkedin. Then my sister receives an email saying she should come join me on my professional network. Not a cool move Linkedin – you lost some gold stars.

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Now, Make Your Network Work for You
The internet can be used as a powerful tool to connect with people of interest and research worthy content about them.
As an example, have you tried Nuzzle.com? As a news source, it provides you with the most-shared content online within your network – the network you’ve spent years curating. Surely they have something good to say right. Linkedin are making a push with their Pulse app to drive content your professional network is compiling for you to read. Medium is the home of the story-tellers within your network. Quora is a source of knowledge for questions you’ve always wanted to ask. And take Foursquare; you might ask yourself where to find the best places to hangout in a new city.

Bingo – this is the internet working for you, all on the back of the network you continue to build and continue to curate.