By Dipesh Patel
Several people over the last few weeks have told me how technology has made it easier to build a network. I believe the opposite to be true and that technology has made it more difficult to build a network. The ease of friending someone on Facebook or adding a new connection on LinkedIn makes building meaningful new relationships harder than ever before. Where before you had to pick up the phone or set up a meeting to get coffee, today you can just click 1 button and add someone to your “network.”
Let’s analyze the theory that LinkedIn has made it easier to build a network. I get dozens of LinkedIn requests from people I have had very brief encounters with. Does my acceptance of their request really add any value to either of our networks? If someone in my network asked to meet that person or asked me something about that person could I provide any real insight? I tend to actually ignore these requests. I do not know the acceptable protocol, and I am not trying to offend anyone, but I find it very hard to add someone to my public network unless I really know them. I have found this becomes even more difficult when you work for a large organization. For example, at Pariveda Solutions, we are currently up to over 250 technology consultants in 10 cities. I routinely get LinkedIn requests from distant colleagues in different offices I have never met or worked with. To a lesser degree, I get completely cold requests from people I have no affiliation with. I often let these requests sit in my inbox until deciding to hit the dreaded “ignore” button after a few weeks.
I see the value in leveraging LinkedIn or other public networks for prospecting, general networking, or preparing for a meeting. I sometimes ask for help from my network to prepare for a meeting because, for example, someone I know may have worked with the individual I am meeting. However, I am increasingly seeing a trend that people do not really know the people in their “networks.” I can’t count the number of times I have reached out to a colleague or contact and asked for an introduction to someone in their “network” only to get a response similar to, “Oh, I haven’t actually communicated with Bob in 4 years.”
I have two simple rules for my network. If I can’t send an email or make a phone call and receive a response in a timely manner, I probably should not have this person in my network. Likewise, if someone in my network were to drop me a note or give me a call and I would not get back to them in a timely manner, I probably should not have them in my network. I actually make it a habit to clean out my Outlook and LinkedIn contacts periodically. This is increasingly challenging because in order to actually use my rule I have to reach out to everyone in my network (you see what I did there).
You can easily implement some of the techniques I have found to be successful by doing the following:
- Reach out to your network (whether they are on LinkedIn or not) at least once a quarter with a meaningful touch point.
- If you do not get a response after 3 consecutive attempts, consider ending the relationship. It is unlikely you have a real relationship with them
- Constantly think about how you can help your network. Just thinking about people goes a very long way. This thinking will serve you well with technique # 1
Do you have any best practices you recommend when it comes to managing your personal relationships?
PS – After writing this post I came across a tool online that automatically accepts LinkedIn requests on your behalf: https://linkedoutapp.com/.