Recently, I came across a blog discussion about LinkedIn groups, and some possible changes coming for how they are managed. One of the posters commented, “building a community is the best alternative.”
Some people may call it networking, but I like the term “building a community.” It’s more than just shaking hands, exchanging business cards, and adding names to a database (or the old-fashioned rolodex, see picture at left). It’s about building actual connections with people and then staying in touch through multiple mediums (social media, email, phone, or snail mail) or just good old face-to-face interactions.
So here are a few tips on building your community.
Engage them: On meeting someone you already know, think of some piece of information about them – they have two kids, or they really like soccer, if they like to cook or travel, or maybe a shared acquaintance. Something you can use to engage them in further discussion.
More is better: The bigger your network, the more people you know. That may seem trite, but really the more people you know, even if only slightly, it’s that many more extended connections. (It’s like that 70s shampoo commercial – “and she told two friends… and so on.”) Try to attend one networking event per week to grow your community.
Be patient: You never know when connections are going to bear fruit. When I first started my proofreading/editing business, I reached out to several people I knew who worked in similar areas to find out how they had been successful. Several of those connections have led to actual projects, but it took a year for that to pan out.
Volunteer your time: I regularly volunteer my time and energy with groups that interest me – primarily the Golden Link Folk Singing Society and Rochester Professional Consultants Network. So in addition to getting to play music (in the first case) and learning from interesting business people (in the second), I’m also expanding the network of people who know me.
Be nice: The last thing you want is someone to remember you only because you were rude to them. As Maya Angelou has said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”