The new rule of networking: Make friends, not contacts


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Your network is your net-worth. But where there is no real mind connection between the protagonist and the other people in the network, all you find is a mere collection of names, business cards, emails, phone numbers and pins. That is worth nothing since these other people are individuals with values, standards and preferences which you as a player in the network may not really fit into. How disgusting, when you always have to remind the other person of your name even after the third phone calls!

The truth is real networking takes off when contacts translate into friendship. But friendship cannot exist among a pack of misfit. To have some measure of fit is to breathe a level of value into each other’s life. Therefore value and fit brings relevance; relevance breeds friendship. That is when a network translates into net-worth – a capacity for business opportunities and unusual favour.

A lot of people like to attend events such as industry meet and fellowships to broaden their networks. At these events, people move from circles to circles exchanging a modest grin, some handshakes and extend cards or exchange phone numbers.

 It sounds like a routine – isn’t it? Yet a few grins and smiles do not always translate into real connection that, perhaps, will translate into businesses and favour. It takes a rare uniqueness for the faces of some people you just met to stick or to soon be sticking your neck out for a mini-friend (a mere contact). Alas! Not everyone is a social genius like Bill Clinton who understood how to arrest and court people’s attention almost instantly. Well, that was why he still presided over 2 terms as a USAP despite his many scandals!

Structurally, the hubs of a network must have strings that connect each strand in the grid. Where the string is not in place you have a silo, much more a disconnected strand. As in end-to-end balance, a disconnection of one strand necessarily means a disconnection from the inflow and outflow of the spoils and benefits of inclusion. Do you get your home lighted after Power Authorities disconnect your cable from the grid?

Connection requires consistent plug in via strings that connect each hub of the networking grid. Being a mere contact does not match this description. Being a friend does.

Networking requires being in sync, in a simpler term, making friends, with people in your industries and providing values that establish your relevance in the entire networking chain. Hey, the strings that connect the networking strands are value pipelines or value chain. By ensuring a consistent transfer of value, the rest of the hub will be emotionally, materially and psychologically greased for the overall prosperity of each member. It does mean the relevance of each strand must be maintained by consistent inflow and outflow.

However, people do not share the same quota when it comes to contributing to the networking grid. This is understood. It is therefore, important to be adept at what your contribution is. Should you be a motivator, transmit it through the chain. Are you a resource hub, keep your contributions high i.e. be the one that gives referral at any possible point; be the one that light up the other end of the mobile receiver when the phone rings; be the one that first hit the road when the other person gets stuck; be the light, be the idea provider – Just be something that buys you a mindshare in the network.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was able to convince Sheryl Sandberg, a well respected former Chief of Staff to the US Secretary of the Treasury and an ex Vice President of Global Online Sales & Operations at Google. Sheryl is worth about $1.6 billion and possesses some of the best operational leadership coveted by any company. Move from Google to Facebook with all that worth? Well, Zuck knew what he wanted from the beginning. Yes, to bring the best talents to Facebook.

He figured it out quite alright. He spent time connecting with Sheryl. For a number of times they had dinners without talks about switching. There were phone calls simply tacked to ‘checking to see you are fine’. Concern, presence and attention soon spill over into demands. You know what? Sheryl is the present Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. With her, like at Google, Facebook is conquering the world.

These are therefore some basic tips to convert your contact to real friendship that can yield favour and business opportunities along the networking grid:

  1. Understand The Other Persons’ Interests & Plug Your Relevance: If you understand what makes others happy, you can lead them with one hand to wherever you will. Is your new contact a tech savvy? A social freak? What are their present circumstances? Understanding this, though you may not have all the luxury to get close enough now, but figuring out something about them, could help you upgrade your playbook. Then you begin to share tips, jokes, industry highlights, updates about new opportunities, motivations etc.
  2. Make Occasional Phone Calls: Don’t just keep a business card you just received or store away the phone numbers you just exchanged. Text back or ring back to say ‘hi, I’m so-and-so, we met today @ XYZ. I’m so glad we did. Just want to say thanks for the card, smile, pep etc’. This is a gate opener or rather a rasp on the door. In some two weeks you may check again with a ‘Just checking to say hello. By the way, have you heard about the industry…?’ Hey, by bringing something you can both identify with for a brief discussion, you hit a new key in your relationship. That is when relationship begins.
  3. Seek Another Opportunity To Meet Again In Person: This maybe an event they are attending. Tell them you would be around. Share a seat if possible with them. There you go. That is networking. Keep doing that, and you will soon discover you have someone to talk to about almost anything in the world.
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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