Warn­ing: To effec­tive­ly net­work, you’re going to have to get up from behind your lap­top and actu­al­ly talk to peo­ple!

4 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

When it comes to build­ing a world-class net­work, it’s eas­i­er than ever to get dis­tract­ed with the sheer amount of tools avail­able to us. From LinkedIn to Twit­ter to online forums to Face­book Groups, it can quick­ly get over­whelm­ing try­ing to nav­i­gate where to invest your time, ener­gy and dol­lars into. On top of that, the nature of net­work­ing is shift­ing as the tech land­scape changes — mak­ing each year dif­fer­ent from the last in terms of best prac­tices.

That being said, by fol­low­ing a few basic rules and being active with­in a cou­ple of key venues, you’ll be able to take your net­work from where it is to world-class in 2020. Here’s how to get start­ed.

1. Never neglect the “human connection” when networking

No mat­ter how dig­i­tal the world becomes, the human con­nec­tion will nev­er lose its val­ue. Not only does speak­ing face-to-face with a per­son leave a more mem­o­rable imprint than a dig­i­tal inter­ac­tion does, but it can also be more effi­cient — after all, not many peo­ple can type faster than they speak. Research backs up the val­ue of in-per­son rela­tion­ship build­ing. For instance, one UCLA study found that up to 93 per­cent of com­mu­ni­ca­tion effec­tive­ness is deter­mined by non­ver­bal cues high­light­ing the pow­er of face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Relat­ed: 10 Pow­er­ful Busi­ness Net­work­ing Skills to Build Rap­port Quick­ly

To get start­ed with meet­ing movers and shak­ers, try some of the fol­low­ing:

  • If near­by, attend Gen­er­al Assem­bly, Ivy or EO (Entre­pre­neurs’ Orga­ni­za­tion) events to meet local techies and start­up founders.

  • Become a mem­ber at a local cowork­ing space.

  • Attend indus­try con­fer­ences to con­nect with atten­dees, orga­niz­ers and speak­ers.

2. Get involved in digital publishing

One of the best ways to meet influ­en­tial peo­ple in any indus­try is get­ting involved in the dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing space. Whether you launch a pod­cast, YouTube series, blog or some­thing else relat­ed, these plat­forms can be ter­rif­ic ways to con­struct a world-class net­work in a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial way. Why? In exchange for expo­sure to your audi­ence, many indi­vid­u­als who would be too busy or pre­oc­cu­pied to con­nect with you oth­er­wise may agree to come on your show—giving you an oppor­tu­ni­ty to have a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion with them. 

Relat­ed: How to Encour­age Net­work­ing That Boosts Com­pa­ny Cul­ture

Wor­ried you don’t have a big enough audi­ence for a cer­tain indi­vid­ual? One way around this is let­ting the inter­vie­wee know you’ll adver­tise the piece of con­tent across social media and oth­er chan­nels, allow­ing you to reach a large audi­ence with­out hav­ing to spend years lay­ing the ground­work.

3. Thoughtfully engage with people over a long period of time

We’re more spoiled today than ever when it comes to net­work­ing. Thanks to social media, we’re a cou­ple of taps away from some of the world’s most sought-after lead­ers, entre­pre­neurs and pub­lic fig­ures. The prob­lem though is most peo­ple don’t know how to prop­er­ly build a rela­tion­ship with a thought leader or influ­encer online. Instead of build­ing a valu­able, authen­tic con­nec­tion with some­one who’s fur­ther along in their career than you, most go straight for the “ask” — a move that’s equiv­a­lent to ask­ing a stranger in a gro­cery store to mar­ry you.

If you want to build a con­nec­tion with a high-pro­file indi­vid­ual in your space, you should take a much dif­fer­ent approach: thought­ful­ly engage with that person’s online con­tent on a reg­u­lar basis — tweets, videos, LinkedIn posts, etc. —with valu­able com­ments. Let them know how their blog post remind­ed you of an expe­ri­ence you’ve had. Tell them why you feel a dif­fer­ent approach to a prob­lem could offer the same solu­tion. 

Relat­ed: Effec­tive Net­work­ing Requires Mas­ter­ing These 5 Skills

If you con­sis­tent­ly do this over a long peri­od of time (more than six months), your face will inevitably become a famil­iar one — giv­ing you a clear open­ing to ini­ti­ate a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion. 

Pro Tip: When inter­act­ing with these indi­vid­u­als, avoid cliche ques­tions like “Can I pick your brain?” or “How can I add val­ue to you?”. For those who get con­tact­ed by a large num­ber of peo­ple, these are tell­tale signs of a trans­ac­tion­al rela­tion­ship.

4. Go deep with a few rather than narrow with many

5X best­selling author and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty savant, Tim Fer­riss has one piece of advice when it comes to net­work­ing: go deep rather than nar­row. Instead of mak­ing dozens of shal­low con­nec­tions with indi­vid­u­als, focus on cul­ti­vat­ing deep, mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with a few pow­er­ful peo­ple. High-pro­file fig­ures tend to know oth­er high-pro­file peo­ple across a vari­ety of indus­tries — allow­ing for less dis­rup­tive intro­duc­tions.

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