This is the Ultimate Hack for building a Social Network without Networking
You are right… networking can sometimes be a pain in the butt!
Going to all these events… talking to people you don’t know… small talk… etc.
Yes, with practice you can learn how to overcome all the obstacles that are preventing you from enjoying the art & science of networking. But practice takes time and effort, and you just might not have enough of those resources.
WARNING: Not having time is a big excuse and you shouldn’t have excuses if you want to get things done. Yet, I still want to share with you something that can make your life easier and will help you have access to networks of valuable and high-level people without doing so much of the heavy lifting.
Let’s be honest, we cannot be good at everything. You might not have what it takes to go out and see rejection face-to-face every day.
Enough uncertainty and doubts can bring down even the strongest. Your ego can only take so many punches.
Maybe you are too introverted or maybe it is too uncomfortable for you to conduct a conversation in a language that is not your native one (more excuses but let's keep going, it will get better).
The goal of this article is to share with you something that will make your life easier. This is the ultimate hack for building a network without networking.
Yes, networking without networking. If you don’t believe is possible then you can leave now because you are probably right.
If you want to build meaningful connections and have access to the people that will help you get jobs, get more clients, or maybe even meet the person you will spend the rest of your life with… then you have to say and read this.
Beyond this point, there will be no more excuses. We have to get it done no matter what!
We will explore the world of what Malcolm Gladwell calls “Connectors”. Specifically, we will look at ways in which we can meet this type of people and build relationships with them to expand our social network in an efficient and effective way.
Here we go!
Who are Connectors?
Most likely you have already met some connectors in your life.
During middle school, high school, college, or even at work, there are usually connectors within those environments.
Connectors can be the “life of the party” type people. They know everyone, maybe they are even the class president, play sports, and are involved in many activities.
Also, they feel comfortable in their own skin and engaging in conversation with anyone. Usually, connectors know most people by name.
They have different groups of friends and they keep in touch with all of them. Kindergarten friends, their high school friends, they might even be part of one or several sports teams as adults, and they also show up to many professional events and volunteering activities.
Most often connectors would be great politicians but that skillset can be used for many other areas.
Have you already identified who are the connectors that you know?
Now, take a moment to think about your relationship with them. Have you helped them in any way? Or, if you ask for their help what would they say?
If your answer to those questions is YES then you are in a good place. If the answer is NO, then let me share with you some steps you can take to get to a good place where you be able to strengthen your network in an efficient and effective way.
Focus on building strong relationships with connectors!
That is all you need to do if you are not the type of person that enjoys networking.
Just focus on identifying the connectors around you and then just build meaningful relationships with them. Be sure to support and enable them and for sure they will be more than willing to help you when needed.
This is an excellent example of when “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is valid.
This is not an excuse to not work on your interpersonal and social skills. You still need them because you can’t take connectors with you to your interviews, to your presentations, or negotiations. Yet, you can leverage their connections to do more with less.
Connectors are part of what Malcolm Gladwell calls “The Law of the Few”. I recommend reading his book The Tipping Point if you haven’t done so already.
He states that for social epidemics to happen (viral videos, growth on social media, exponential revenue growth, etc.) there are three kind of people with particular and rare social skill sets that need to be involved. These are Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.
Let’s explore how we can identify the Connectors that you already know, and also how to identify the ones that you need to meet, to expand your network in a simple way.
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Now back to the connectors!
What Makes a Connector?
Connectors have several characteristics that stand out which will help you identify them.
They know lots of people
Nowadays you can easily identify that by looking at how they interact in person but also you could check their social media followings.
Connectors are master of what sociologist call the “weak tie”. This means that it is a friendly and casual connection or acquaintance.
A great way to identify this characteristic, of having a lot of acquaintances that come from different backgrounds, is to pay attention to the activities and groups they are part of.
Most often, connectors will be involved in many activities. Sports, different clubs, professional organizations, leadership roles, etc. They might have a poker group, a fishing group, a theater group, the key is that most often the only one that is common in all of these groups is the connector.
They have a natural gift for making social connections
They play the long game. Connectors meet people because they enjoy doing so, they like the opportunity to meet and help others. They are not overly social or operate on a self-serving basis.
This is the tricky part. Connectors are usually what Behavioral Psychologist Adam Grant describes as “givers” (Grant is the author of the New York Times Bestseller Give and Take). Yet, there are a lot of “agreeable takers” that on the surface could look like Connectors but are not.
If you would like to go in depth into this topic of givers and takers then you should listen to this Tony Robbins podcast where Adam Grant shares some strategies and tactics about how to identify these two type of people.
I’ll share with you a simple way to identify takers. Just pay attention to how people treat their peers or people below them. Takers “Kiss up and kick down”. Givers treat everyone the same.
During a networking event, a false connector will only devote their full attention to people that are above them. People who they are looking to connect with for self-serving reasons.
The real connectors might also be looking to make strategic relationships yet they are respectful and engaged in every conversation they have.
In a very non-scientific way, after attending more than 200 networking events, I have identified that on the average there is a correlation between “agreeable takers” and wearing pocket squares in a flashy manner.
This might sound like I am shooting myself in the foot because I usually wear a pocket square but I wear them flat. I’m talking about the people that wear them in a way that the pocket square seems as it has a life of its own, almost as trying to escape and fly away from the suit.
Also, remember that it is a non-scientific research. Correlation doesn’t mean causality. So, the majority of people that wear flashy-looking pocket squares might be “agreeable takers” thus you would want to avoid them. Yet, this doesn’t mean that everyone that wears flashy-looking pocket squares are “agreeable takers”.
If someone wears a flat pocket square and a red UH pin then they are the best ever connectors that you will meet in Houston, and the entire galaxy, so go talk to them. This is actually a very well researched scientific fact ;)
This quote from Gladwell’s book, talking about Louis and Roger (two connectors), sums up what you should be looking for.
“Louis sees things in you that you don’t even see in yourself… They see possibility, and while most of us are busily choosing whom we would like to know, and rejecting the people who don’t look right or who live out near the airport, or whom we haven’t seen in sixty-five years, Louis and Roger like them all.”
Except for the “agreeable takers”, nobody really likes them.
Connecting with Connectors
Now that we know how to identify connectors we need to understand how we can build meaningful relationships with them.
The first step is to understand that because Connectors know a lot of people, most probably they won’t have the time to nurture all of those relationships. Connectors provide value by making each interaction as meaningful as possible yet those interactions might be scarce.
Connectors will listen to you when you are talking to them, they will be curious about you and will be engaged. Yet, don’t expect them to be that friend that you always hang-out with.
If you want to build a meaningful relationship with a connector then there are two key things you can do. Either you join an event they are attending or an organization where they are members, or you can invite them to any event that you are attending that would be valuable for them.
Remember that connectors are in it for the possibilities of meeting new and interesting people. They more you help them with that the more valuable you will be to them.
In other words, make it as easy as possible for them to spend time with you.
Also, support their efforts of increasing their presence and influence. This is something I schedule and do consistently. There are several connectors that I’ve met, with whom I’ve developed professional relationships, and I dedicate time of my week to like/share/comment on any of their social media posts.
I do this for two reasons: 1) I find the information they share valuable so I honestly want to share it with others to help both parties; 2) By doing this I support their efforts and build social capital for when I might need some support. This moment might not come, I don’t support others just for this reason. Yet, I know that if I’m constantly helping others then, if needed, I will have access to social capital in the future.
Building a meaningful relationships is a marathon, not a sprint. So be sure to constantly plant seeds.
Take Your Social Network to the Next Level
At this point, you are ready to take your social network to the next level without doing a lot of the heavy lifting.
You just need to:
Build meaningful relationships with them by showing support
Avoid the “agreeable takers” and approach the guy with the flat pocket square and the red UH pin ;)
The ball is in your court, no more excuses!