So what should your strategy be. Do you want a small group to work with you locally – or do you want a much larger, wider ranging group that needs to be held together electronically? As we mentioned earlier, this depends on the nature of your business. The 2 main networks that I’m familiar with are Ecademy and Linked-in.
Thomas Power of Ecademy represents the polar extreme from organisations like BNI and BRE and maintains that quantity of connections is all. He maintains that the money is in the connections not the nodes. Clearly as the head of a networking organisation it works for him. But that is his life.
What’s unique about http://www.Ecademy.com is that it effectively supports both online and off-line networking. It’s method of connection is essentially random. One of the issues with networking is to strike the right balance between focused and targeted networking and Ecademy is good at delivering measured amounts of randomness.
http://www.linkedin.com by contrast is completely purposeful. It essentially maps your first 3 circles of connectedness and lets you plan a route of introductions to whoever you are trying to reach / sell to. Then you can ask your network for introductions and you will be passed on or not according to the strength of your reputation. We’ll return to reputation in the section on building trust.
So making use of a network, small or large, involves aligning with and getting to know the most connected members – and getting them to trust you so that they will pass your ideas or opportunities on.
However there is taxonomy of these individuals. Some are essentially salesmen, some just like connecting people, and some are subject experts – mavens in the terminology used by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point.
So you need to be clear what you’re doing in the network – are you selling, looking for advocates, employees or finance – or are you just trying to get ideas spread – the individuals chosen to work with will be different in each case.
You may need to consider incentives if you are to truly motivate them to amplify your own activities. In Seth Godin’s useful book “Unleashing the Idea Virus” he identifies either money or kudos as motivators for highly connected individuals. (It looks like we’re back to the usual trilogy of fear, greed and fashion here.)
So reputation works like a personal brand. It brings you a dividend over and above the number of connections you can make with your own efforts.
From 21 Business stories. We’ll talk a bit about building trust shortly.