Networking the old-fashioned way – doing the rounds at events with your business card or maximizing your number of contacts on social networks – is of very limited benefit. It’s the quality, not quantity, of connections that counts. “Networks only work if they are built on trust, reciprocity and the long term,” explain Gerber and Paugh, founders of The Community Company, a firm that creates brand and media community programs. Agility, relevance, and reactivity are three qualities asked of you today – and all three depend on the quality of your networks. It’s a real skill to know how to be around the right people at the right time, to surround yourself with likeminded professionals who share your values, create supportive, thought-provoking communities together. The ability to build meaningful, productive relationships is the preserve of “super connectors.” Hubs for the communities they build, super connectors use their social capital to create value for themselves and others.
Forget the networker stereotype
Digital technologies have opened up near limitless opportunities for networking and connecting online. But the first step to becoming a connector is to stop networking for networking’s sake, without having well-defined goals! According to Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 6% of the world’s population were internet “addicts” in 2014. Perhaps even more alarming, 420 million people were found to seek out superficial, random and fickle connections rather than cultivating more powerful, handpicked relationships. To make more relevant connections, you need a thoughtful, selective strategy. But forget the clichés. You don’t have to be outgoing to be a super connector. You don’t have to attend every event, be a star with a high profile or love to flaunt your opinions. Many super connectors are actually introverts. The authors point to the example of Jim Pierce, the best-connected individual of all the 60,000 inhabitants in Homestead, Florida. An accountant by profession, Jim was chair of numerous local associations, the Military Affairs Committee, the First National Bank of South Florida and the Chamber of Commerce before being named 2013 Citizen of the Year. A surprising award for someone described as quiet and unassuming? No. Thanks to 35 years of involvement in the life of his town and service to several generations of customers, Jim is powerfully connected.
Prioritize your commitments
Like Jim Pierce, super connectors take time to build strong, durable connections. When they enter into relationships, they do not expect immediate returns on investment.