How to Build a High Value Social Network

Prior to returning to Hanoi, I decided that building world class social connections should become one of my primary goals.

Previously, I made acquaintances and formed friendships like most people: by blindly stumbling into them.

To my credit, I was discerning and didn’t spend time with people who were in obvious downward spirals. But generally, I’d meet people through work, or I’d get introduced through existing friends. If we clicked or had similar interests, we’d likely hang out more. If not, I paid them no more attention than required by common courtesy.

It worked OK, but it wasn’t really leading me anywhere.

But now I’m a bit more ambitious. I not only want to link up with high value people in fields like business and government, but I also want to acquaint myself with movers and influencers from a diverse areas of social life.

This is partly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point.’ In it, he talks about the strength of weak ties. Much of the opportunities we encounter, he argues, comes from acquaintances, not our best friends.

Instead of taking random action to build my social network, I decided to study the topic first. I spent two weeks reading dozens of articles on networking and listening to hours upon hours of interviews. The best thinker in this field is Keith Ferrazzi, author of ‘Never Eat Alone’ and ‘Who’s Got Your Back.’

These notes are from that research along with my own intuitive sense and experience. There is a lot of information here, and it’s not necessarily in a logical order. But some of the best stuff is at the end, so be sure to read the whole way through.

>> Relationships are like muscles. The more you use and rely on them, the stronger they become.

This goes back to the concept of ‘give AND take.’ When you ask someone for help, you are giving them the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with you.

Having always been fiercely independent, this is undoubtedly the biggest conceptual leap for me.

>> Quality of people trumps quantity. It’s more important to know the right people than many people.

Anyone who’s built a company or organization can tell you: people matter a lot. You’re not going to create a game-winning team from an abundance of shitty players. Likewise, you’re not going to create an inspiring and uplifting social network by associating with hundreds of unambitious losers.

See my recent post on crab bucket mentality.

>> Similarly, quality of time spent together is more important than the quantity of time spent together.

Basically, reduce the amount of time you spend relating on a superficial level. Increase authentic communication, co-creation, and genuine service.

>> Build a network before you need it.

By the time you need to source help through a network, it’s too late to start building one. Instead, you need to begin now. Find people you want to connect with and figure out how you can help make them more successful.

>> If you can’t help someone, try to connect them with someone who can.

When you link two people together, you become more important in both their lives.

>> Every encounter is an opportunity to create an impression.

Don’t underestimate or waste the opportunity to have small yet meaningful interactions.

>> Identify the people who are key to your success. Then establish a close relationship with them.

Figure who what your goals are, then identify whose help you’ll need. Then start thinking about how to best reach out.

>> Be hyper accountable.

Follow through on the promises you make. Successful people rarely waste time or risk their own reputation on flakey or unreliable people. In fact, high value people will often test new acquaintances before they consider investing effort into them. You rarely get a second opportunity to spend time with really high level people if you bail or screw up your first shot.

>> Be conscious of the relationship tiers you are creating.

There are at least three.

You need a critical few: the 3-5 people who matter most. Stay in contact with them. Understand their needs and interests, then connect over that. These are the people who will have your back and hold you accountable. People who are conflict-avoidant are useless in this regard. They’re more concerned about protecting their image than telling you truths you need to hear.

Next, there are the 50-100 people you have second-tier relationships with. Check in and ping them regularly. Send links and messages which you know they’ll enjoy receiving.

Last is everyone else. Find an easy way to engage with them. Monthly newsletters, social media posts, and holiday greetings are excellent for this. By keeping the channel of communication open, you are creating an easy way for them to move into the second tier.

>> Give yourself permission to be yourself, thereby becoming more intriguing.

Don’t be so bland, watered down, or image-conscious that people find it difficult to genuinely connect with you. Embrace authenticity and understand that people are often attracted to the rough edges and imperfections.

>> Form a connection to someone before they become successful or famous.

It’s much easier to establish a bond with someone before they reach the top. Seek out and connect with rising stars who are still in the early phases of their careers.

>> Lead with authentic generosity.

Give before you ask, and don’t keep score.

>> The power of weak ties.

In many areas of life, your closest friends can’t help you that much. You’re too similar witg them, and you already know most of the things they do.

Instead, crucial new information and opportunities are often relayed through broader social networks made up of acquaintances and more distance friends.

Thus, the more people you know, along with the quality of those people and the quality of the connections you’ve made with them, the greater the chances you will have for success.

>> Cold calling is ineffective.

Instead of contacting people out of the blue, see if you can leverage pre-existing contacts.

People are far more likely to give their time and attention if you are introduced through a shared acquaintance.

>> Attend events outside of your comfort zone.

That’s where you will meet people who you normally wouldn’t. If you can’t find events which sound fun, look for ones which don’t sound awful.

>> Don’t leave relationships to chance.

Relationships are important to your success. Be conscious about spending time to build and maintain good relationships with the right people.

Have a plan. Figure out who you need to meet to succeed in your specific goals, then look for good ways to meet them.

>> Greet everyone.

That way, when you introduce yourself later, it will be a warm introduction.

>> Reach out and invite people to things.

Doing things alone won’t strengthen your relationships. Reach out often to invite people to things they’ll want to attend. Stay fresh in people’s minds.

Host parties and events. Invite interesting mixes of people to join. During the event, ask people to share things which are happening in their personal and professional lives. This gives people the opportunity to connect of things which are meaningful and important.

>> Ping often. Don’t let important relationships slip through the cracks.

Occasionally send fun and light-hearted messages, or make a quick call. It will keep you current in people’s minds.

>> Sometimes meeting high value people is a multi-step process.

Someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who you want to meet. Figure out what is important to each of those people.

>> Research and prepare.

Before you go to an event, find out who else will be going, and research them. Know who you want to meet. Even if someone isn’t valuable in respect to directly helping your goals, perhaps they are someone you can introduce to someone else.

Also do research before meeting people. Try to figure out what is important to them and how you can assist their success before you shake hands.

>> Have a mission beyond just networking.

Know what you want. Rarely do people just want to ‘network.’

Figure out what you are after. If you can’t figure it out, make the goal of networking simply to help people.

>> Maximize your time.

During meetings and conferences, don’t take a break during break time.

Ping people in your down time.

>> Get over shyness. Deal with or ignore the fear of rejection.

Introversion should be renamed ‘ruining your life because your don’t want to feel uncomfortable.’

>> Know the value of your core group.

Everyone needs 3 people who won’t let them fail. Those people must: tell the truth; be generous; and hold you accountable. They must care about your success, be willing to ask probing questions, and deliver harsh truths.

>> Other people are a major conduit of the success you desire.

Rarely are great accomplishments carried out alone. ‘Rome was built by a gang.’

>> Embrace relational learning.

Build a network which will make you smarter and better informed.

Don’t rely on only one or two people to learn from. Get a network of people who can become trusted mentors.

>> Filter your goals through your network.

After know your goals, ask yourself who can either open up direct opportunities, teach you the skills you need, or hold you accountable and call you out on your bullshit.

>> The three most important attributes for building social connections are generosity, curiosity, and authenticity.

Generosity because no one wants to deal with someone who always only looks out for themselves.

Curiosity because it signals that you actually care and are willing to listen and understand the people in your life.

Authenticity because it is impossible to truly connect with someone who always has their guard up.

>> Bonus quote from Keith Ferrazzi: “You don’t think your way into a new way of acting. You act your way into a new way of thinking.”

Applicable in multiple areas of life. Even if you’re not naturally gregarious, it’s not an excuse to neglect this area of your life. With practice comes talent.

>> Additional Resources

Although there are tons of interviews and speeches by Keith Ferrazzi floating around, my favorite is one he did years ago with Tom Bilyeu. I recommend this one because they both dive into a variety of topics on personal success and leadership, many of which aren’t covered in these notes.

Likewise, if you want a more practical, step-by-step action plan for building your social network, Jordan Harbinger just released a free 30-day course called Level 1. It’s still being released, so I can only speculate on how the whole thing will turn out. But given his history of working with the Art of Charm and more recently launching his own podcast, I’m optimistic that it will be a useful resource for anyone who wants to kick start their level of social connectiveness.

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