12 Most Effective Ways to Expand Your Professional Network
Have you ever asked how people got the network they have? When people ask how I’ve grown my professional network, I make clear to them that it was never by buying followers, gaming any system or just for the pure fact of having numbers!
Building a community of people that you want to be aligned with takes time. Here are the 12 most effective ways to expand your professional network:
1. Attend networking events
This may seem obvious, but so many people get stuck in the rut of going to the same networking events that always have the same people. Want to expand your network? Go to an event where you don’t know anyone.
2. Targeted networking, part 1
When deciding what networking events you are going to attend, be sure there will be people that you can do business with – or will at least be able to connect you with others you can do business with.
3. Targeted networking, part 2
Don’t waste your time attending events in which you will be surrounded by your competitors if you anticipate there will be very few qualified connections. You’ll all be competing over the same prospects.
The quickest way to get to meet people is to volunteer. Working registration at events is one of the best jobs to have. You see everyone as they come in (and they see you). You are usually done in plenty of time to follow up with your targeted prospects (and it beats clean up duty!)
5. Host an event
No one is looked at as more of a thought leader… than the host of an event. Outside your current comfort zone? Start small, or collaborate with a strategic partner.
6. DM new followers on Twitter
(No, I did NOT say auto DM). Nothing gets someone’s attention more than a DM mentioning their most recent blog post, status update, the city the live in, etc. You get the point…all about them, nothing about you. That will come. (Just to be clear: your free e-book is all about you, not them)
7. Customize your LinkedIn invitation
State how you know the person, where and when you met them and why it would be a good idea to connect. (Just to be clear, again: you being able to sell them a widget is NOT their idea of a good reason to connect.)
8. Your avatar
If you are networking at events, make sure your avatars are you, not a logo, cartoon or the default. Also make sure it’s a recent photo, not one from 20 years ago and 50 pounds lighter. After all, people will introduce themselves in large part because they recognize you from your avatar.
9. Links ( everywhere!)
Be sure to include links to your: blog, website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook (page/profile), etc. Where? Everywhere! Want people to connect with you? Make it easy for them to find how.
10. Your profiles
At minimum include a bio on your social profiles that give someone and idea of what you do, where you do it and what your interests are. While there is value in placing keywords in your bio, if it doesn’t make sense to the average person, you probably lost more value than those keywords would ever get you.
11. Promote others
Sharing, Liking, RTing, G+, +K for someone else, their content or their events will build your social cred. Warning: You cannot expect to receive it, if you never give it.
12. Be helpful
The simplest, and most powerful, advice I can give: Nothing expands your network faster than being helpful.
These are ways I’ve found to expand my professional network both in person and on line. You’ve noticed the underlying tone has been to make it about others, not about you. What do you get? You’ll be amazed!
These are not intended to be the only 12 ways, as I’m sure there are over 100, but in the last 3 years, I’ve grown my professional network in Chicago to over 3,000 people that have attended events at groups I’ve started, assisted or volunteered. What have you tried that works for you?