Building and maintaining your network is important but is that everything?
A community is made up of all of the actors in the region and us community geeks call this a network. The first step in community building is to make sure you get all of the nodes (people not organizations) mapped out. The second step is to try and see who is already connected and to connect those not yet connected to each other. This can take months if not years.
To do this effectively you need a number of leaders/influencers to actually work at this daily. Some may call this a form of networking and for now let’s refer to this as community networking.
As you begin to build out your community network, it is essential that you don’t stop at mapping and connecting the recognizable actors. Which means you have to work at finding and connecting with Net New players.
If your idea of managing your network is simply reaching out to old professional friends to get an update on what they are doing over a coffee or beer, then I would argue that you are operating at a “B” level. Congrats on actually reaching out to connect – it is still critical and obviously better than not reaching out at all.
There is another gear for optimizing your networking time. I would argue that you need to add NET NEW people to your network for you to be operating at a level “A”. Of course, this is more difficult and does not necessarily feel as good as connecting with old friends.
NET NEW contacts expand your network power in so many ways.
First, you get to tell your story to a person who does not know your story. They are now enabled with you, your story and your mojo. If they are local, you get to reinforce your position in the community. If they are not local you just created a new seed in a weaker networked area. The real value is then reached when they then tell your story within their network. (This is why you always ask what you can do for them and then do it.)
The second benefit is that you have just added a resource to later utilize for you and/or your community. Every NET NEW person expands an industry niche, a functional skill, or a seasoned experience that you can lean on later.
Found some time to network this week? Think about how you can meet 5 NET NEW people to connect with and share stories. Your network thanks you in advance.