At some point in your career, you may realize that the number of “friends” or “connections” in your social networks doesn’t mean as much to your livelihood as you’d like. The truth is that you need more than a social network to succeed.
At some point in your career, you may realize that the number of “friends” or “connections” in your social networks doesn’t mean as much to your livelihood as you’d like. The truth is that you need more than a social network to succeed. After all, meaningful business depends on meaningful relationships.
Once you’ve come to this realization and are as ready to design a more meaningful personal network as you are to tackle that client’s new design concept, consider these seven steps to help you get set up with an efficient, easy-to-follow system for maintaining your relationships:
1. Organize Your Network by Orbits (aka Groups)
All of your best intentions to maintain strong relationships will fall by the wayside if you can’t remember who they are, what you know about them, and how to reach them. Use a contact manager to store and access this information anytime, anywhere, one that incorporates your contacts, calendar, and communication is optimal.
2. Track the Interactions You Have with Others
The simple habit of logging interactions can provide tremendous value. Why? Because retrieving that information in preparation for your next encounter demonstrates their importance to you. Effective follow through is as important as follow-up.
3. Establish Routine “Stay in Touch” Time
You may see some of your contacts more frequently or more consistently than others. What about the rest? Create ready-made list of those with whom you want to remain top-of-mind and let them know you’re thinking about them.
4. Make Your Messages Them-Centric
When you’re dashing off a stay-in-touch message to someone, put yourself in his or her shoes. If your reason for reaching out is clear, you’ll have a message in mind. If it’s not, consider what information they might find useful or timely.
5. Find Creative Ways to Fit in Face-Time When Possible
While regular message are important signals of your attention to a relationship, they don’t provide the intensity of “face time.” Consider trying to schedule a weekly time to connect with a member of your network in person. It’s a mutually beneficial investment.
6. Sift Your Orbits Regularly
It may seem strange to think of strengthening your network by removing people from it, but if a relationship fails to thrive despite your efforts, that attention would be better spent elsewhere. Sifting regularly helps you maintain focus and spend time wisely.
7. Complement Depth with Breadth
Often the most challenge design element can be balance. This is no less challenging when it pertains to relationships. Balance the breadth and outreach of efforts like social media broadcasts with the depth-oriented refinement you build in your personal network. Ask yourself this question: If you attend a business dinner and spend an hour around a table with 10 people, does that count as an hour with each of them? Your answer could explain why so many people feel disconnected from others, despite ever-growing numbers of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections. But a strong personal network isn’t about the number of contact records; it’s about the relationships they represent.
By nurturing your connections with time, attention, emotional intensity, and trust-building consideration, you’ll develop meaningful, two-way bonds. Remember to incorporate all of the essential elements into your work to design the kinds of meaningful relationships that translate to meaningful business.