The importance of having a social network is as old as the entire human race. As social animals, we always needed others to thrive and to survive.
Technology has made it so much easier to create these networks. With a click of a button you can expand your professional network on LinkedIn or send a friend request to your old high school love on Facebook.
The abundance of options to network has derailed us from the core principle of networking — connecting with people and deepening the relationship.
Networking is not a numbers game
The average user on Facebook has 338 friends, the average on LinkedIn is 393 connections.
More is better, seems to be the overarching theme. Especially in the business context. Reaching the 500+ sign seems like an accomplishment.
The 500 cap on LinkedIn is a way how the social network shows that a user has more than 500 connections on LinkedIn without disclosing how many exactly. This 500+ has been misused as a badge of honor. As a signal to the world what a great networker you are if you manage to have more than 500 connections.
This thinking is flawed and actually counter productive to what we want to achieve with networking. Have you ever thought about why LinkedIn may cap the connection count that they officially publish?
Your networks is your net worth
Especially in business, networking can go a long way for you if you have the right network.
I want to propose a little experiment. Take a moment now, open up your LinkedIn account or other social network of choice and briefly browse through your contacts (but make sure you come back to this page afterwards).
How many of the connections you have do you really know? With how many of those contacts have you been in touch during the past 6 months? The last 12 months? Ever?
Has your network ever helped you to accomplish anything else than feeling good when you receive all these automated notifications for your birthday?
Your network is your net worth so take a close look at your assets and critically ask yourself if you have invested in the right contacts and into the process of nurturing them.
Less is more
The technology makes it so easy to add people to our network that we would never add in a real life social gathering. We add so many people to our networks just in case. These just-in-case-contacts do nothing for us, they only harm us.
They clutter our contact database which blurs our view on the important contacts and they may demoralize our potential interesting contacts to connect with us. If you see that someone has 500+ connections, you know that she is very likely just a farmer of names without having real connections. For someone who is genuinely interested in networking with you, it is a big red flag.
Think again why LinkedIn does not disclose your real connection count.
How to identify the worthwhile network
To leverage from our network, we need to declutter. Cutting out the fluff and setting up a network, that can increase your net worth, is the foundation.
But which connections should you terminate?
A good starting point to make that decision is to ask yourself a few questions about each of your contacts
- do I know at least 1 thing about this person that is not on their profile page?
- would this person pick up the phone if I will call?
- would this person immediately remember me if I call?
If the answer to one or all of these questions is no — delete this person from your contact database.
I hear you saying that this person is a prospect and you want to reach out to them to establish a better relationship and warm him up. This is OK and legit. Keep them in but make sure that these leads represent maximum 20% of your contact database.
What may seem and sound as a radical step to do, actually is just accepting the reality (which sometimes is a radical step). If your network does not withstand the above mentioned questions, it is not a network but a list of names.
Choose to go for quality over quantity. If you boil your network down to the essence, you will notice that the connection you have with these people will strengthen. It will be much more easy for you to keep in touch and help your network with problems and questions they may have. Over time, this stronger network will ultimately increase your net worth.
Networking is not who you know, but how you treat them.