5 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

When it comes to net­work­ing, these days it’s easy to get dis­tract­ed by the sheer amount of tools avail­able to us. From LinkedIn and Twit­ter to online forums and Face­book Groups, it can be over­whelm­ing to fig­ure out where to invest your time, ener­gy and dol­lars. On top of that, the nature of net­work­ing shifts as the tech land­scape changes—making each year dif­fer­ent from the last.

That being said, by fol­low­ing a few basic rules and being active with­in a cou­ple key venues, you’ll be able to take your net­work to the next lev­el.

#1. Don’t discount the “human connection.”

No mat­ter how dig­i­tal the world becomes, face-to-face inter­ac­tions will nev­er lose their val­ue. Not only does meet­ing in per­son leave a more mem­o­rable imprint than a dig­i­tal inter­ac­tion, but it can also be more effi­cient. After all, not many peo­ple can type faster than they speak. And 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.

To get start­ed 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, or social club.

  • 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 by get­ting into the dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing space. Whether you launch a pod­cast, YouTube series, blog or some­thing else, 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. 

Wor­ried you don’t have a big enough audi­ence for a cer­tain indi­vid­ual? Tell the inter­vie­wee you’ll pro­mote the con­tent across the var­i­ous social media chan­nels you have access to.

#3. Thoughtfully engage over a long period of time.

We’re more spoiled today than ever when it comes to vir­tu­al net­work­ing. Thanks to social media, we’re a cou­ple taps away from some of the world’s most sought-after lead­ers, entre­pre­neurs and pub­lic fig­ures. The prob­lem is that access is almost too easy, so pow­er­ful indi­vid­u­als get burned out by enti­tled peo­ple (embold­ened by the dis­tane and anonymi­ty of the inter­net) ask­ing for favors they haven’t earned. Most peo­ple don’t know how to prop­er­ly build a rela­tion­ship with a thought leader or influ­encer online. Instead of fos­ter­ing an 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 the long view: thought­ful­ly engage with that person’s online con­tent on a reg­u­lar basis—Tweets, videos, LinkedIn posts, et cetera—with valu­able com­ments. Tell them you appre­ci­ate their thoughts, and share some of your own. 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. If you do this con­sis­tent­ly over a long peri­od of time (6+ months), your name will become a famil­iar, appre­cia­tive one—giving you a clear open­ing to ini­ti­ate a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion that is like­ly to be well-received. 

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. Just start with express­ing your admi­ra­tion for or con­nec­tion to their work, and leave it at that.

#4. Go deep with a few rather than shallow with many.

Best­selling author and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty savant Tim Fer­riss has one piece of advice when it comes to net­work­ing: go deep with a select num­ber of peo­ple. Instead of mak­ing dozens of sur­face-lev­el con­nec­tions, and throw­ing your card at every per­son you meet five min­utes after shak­ing their hand, focus on cul­ti­vat­ing mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with a few pow­er­ful peo­ple. It’s also impor­tant to remem­ber that in pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ships, as in any rela­tion­ship you’d expect to sus­tain over time, some com­pat­i­bil­i­ty helps. If you con­nect with some­one, they’ll want to spend time with you and help you out because they’re root­ing for you, and may even see some part of them­selves in you. When some­one feels they real­ly know who you are, they’re more like­ly to stick their neck out and advo­cate for you. High-pro­file fig­ures tend to know oth­er high-pro­file peo­ple across a vari­ety of industries—and when they make a full-throat­ed, per­son­al rec­om­men­da­tion, it car­ries a lot more weight.

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