Thursday, March 12, 2015

Are You Neglecting The Most Important People In Your Network?

Are You Neglecting The Most Important People In Your Network?In our obsession with social media numbers - followers, Likes, connections, reach, Klout, and so on - it's easy to forget that the people who will make the biggest difference to you are the small group you already have trusted relationships with. Treat them with respect and they will be more powerful than all the shallow connections at the edge of your network.

This isn't only about what you can get from them; it's also about what you can offer them. Here are some simple ways to leverage these relationships.

Connect them to each other

As the common link between them, you know something about each of them, but they might not know much about each other. One of the easiest things you can do is introduce two members of your network to each other. Even if you can't add value to their relationship, simply starting that relationship might be the most important thing you can do. In many cases, all it takes is a simple e-mail to both people, with a brief paragraph introducing them to each other, and then leaving it to them to take the next steps.

Recommend them to others

Even if you can't connect people to each other directly, you might be able to recommend or refer them to your wider community. For example, you can write a LinkedIn recommendation for them, which boosts their profile.

Partner with them

Some of them could be candidates for some sort of partnership with you. In fact, if you already have a partnership idea, these people are the ideal candidates when starting your search for potential partners.

Share your journey

Your close connections want to recommend, refer and promote you, but they can only do this if they know what you want. So don't be shy in sharing your progress, goals, and projects. You don't have to ask for anything specific; it's just about letting them know what you're doing.

Ask for their input

It's easier than ever before to invite "outsiders" into your projects, and many of them will participate enthusiastically with no reward expected except the opportunity to contribute. Here are some examples:

  • Fashion designer Carte Blanche asks consumers to vote on their favourite designs, and only manufactures the most popular designs.
  • When Etihad Airways was designing their new A380 service, they asked consumers for ideas, and incorporated eighty per cent of those ideas in the aircraft's design.
  • In 2012, the Egyptian government invited citizens to contribute ideas for solving Cairo's traffic problems.
  • Airbnb asked users to create Vines (six-second videos on Twitter) for their short film Hollywood and Vines.
  • The basic idea behind crowdfunding services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo is that you're asking people to back a project before it's even started, and to put their money behind it as well.
  • The National Car Rental company asks 300 frequent business travellers to share ideas in an online forum.

Ask them for feedback

It's not always possible to invite people early into your project process, but you might find it easier to ask them for feedback later. For example, Auckland City Council uses the Streetmix service to show residents the proposed changes to street layouts, and invites residents to dynamically adjust the designs online to suggest improvements.

Many people conduct surveys asking for feedback, but most surveys have a very poor response because people are so busy. However, if you ask a select group of trusted connections, they are more likely to respond and with high-quality feedback.

Ask them to do the work

Some people in your network might even be willing to do your work for you – for example:

  • Many software companies set up online forums for users to help each other, rather than relying on the official customer service channel.
  • The "Dead Pedal NY" project asks New York residents to report broken bicycles that have been left abandoned but still tied to bicycle racks or posts. The project wasn't even set up by the city council; it was created by a local resident who saw how to use Instagram to provide this service free.
  • Monmouth, a town in Wales, became the first "Wikipedia town", posting QR codes throughout the town, linked to Wikipedia pages online that local residents can update.
  • Wikipedia itself works this way: It's the world's largest encyclopedia, written entirely by thousands of volunteers.

Tap into their network

Ask your close connections for introductions, referrals and recommendations. Even search engines like Google and Bing rank search results based on recommendations from your friends. You can do the same by asking them directly.

In fact, asking for introductions has always been one of the key features of LinkedIn. You can use it to reach out to people you would like to reach, not just by contacting them out of the blue, but through somebody who knows you both. Because that person in the middle is trusted by you and the other person, the initial connection is far warmer than just a cold contact.

What are YOU doing for your closest connections?

Which of these ideas can you apply right now? Look through this list and set a goal to do one thing every week - even something as simple as connecting two people in your network who don't know each other.