Cut Back Your Network To Help It Grow


‘Another year over and a new one just begun….’

This is a great time to strengthen our networks. Just as we cut-back our fruit trees in winter to ensure an abundance of fresh growth in the spring, we need to prune our networks also.

The number of people we follow on Twitter or are connected with on Linkedin is not the most important element, but rather the quality our network.

Over the year, you may have followed folk based on a passing interest for your business, which may have since lost its relevance. Therefore you may now wish to unfollow such accounts. Likewise, you might have connected with people on Linkedin, for particular reasons, which are no longer relevant. Either way, it is always prudent to prune or, ‘Cut Back To Grow’ (See also my Networking Tips Blog) Remember also people won’t be informed that you unfollow or unconnect with them.

In the 1990’s British anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that we humans are only really capable of maintaining stable social relationships with a finite number of people. He stated this lies between 100 & 250, but the commonly used value quoted is 150. While this theory is difficult to refute, what wasn’t factored into the equation 20 years ago was the advent of social media. This proved to be a massive disruptor. Traditional networking on steroids. Technology suddenly enabled mass networking. However, it is often the case, that quality is inversely proportional to quantity.

So, if you want to see ‘the wood from the trees’, get pruning your network and watch it grow back stronger.

Using Twitter – Who needs to know what you had for breakfast?

Tweet from plane

Something happened recently which really brought home to me the power of Twitter. On a flight from New York back home to Ireland, the behaviour of another passenger as they boarded struck me as strange. Instead of mentioning this to a stranger sitting beside me, I shared this thought to my ‘Diary’ — by which I mean I posted it on Twitter…

I proceeded to do the usual transatlantic flight stuff, grazing on food, movies and music, while trying to sleep sitting up. Towards to end of the flight, this passenger appeared to be actively engaging her vocal chords in a ‘discussion’ with some other passengers. On landing this escalated into her displaying behaviour which belied being her as being somewhat ‘tired and emotional’. Some minutes after touchdown, two policemen boarded and it seemed that was the end of that.

I proceeded to deplane, head home and catch some welcome sleep, in the preferred horizontal position. On waking, my phone and Twitter stream were full of messages from journalists, looking for the ‘scoop’ on the ‘Rock-star Air-Rage’ story.
My tweet was quoted on numerous newspapers, online articles and over Irish national radio waves. I refrained from making a bad situation worse for Ms O’Riordan, so chose to pass on ‘dishing the dirt’ to the press folks about the incident. We all make mistakes, but those in the public eye, do so, in a very public manner. It later transpired that her marriage had just broken up and I wish her well in getting her life back on an even keel.

I’ve never done the ‘Dear Diary,’ thing, but over the past 4 years or so, I have recorded over 30,000 diary entries, in the form of Twitter posts. Committing thoughts to twitter is a bit like writing in a diary, except that all your “followers” may see them. On Twitter, I often forget that others are listening. I still feel a little embarrassed when I meet someone I don’t know, who says, ‘I follow you on Twitter’, my mental response to this is, “why would anyone want to do that?”

So why tweet, then?
Well, for me, it acts as a way of crystallising a thought or observation. The brevity imposed by twitter’s 140 character limit ensures that the essence of the idea is distilled, with little room for waffle. The other main social channels all have their pros and cons, but twitter is my social channel of choice. Facebook is useful for keeping in touch with family and friends, whereas Twitter enables us to discover things we weren’t previously aware of. I love its serendipity.
The format just feels right. There are multiple reasons for this. A key differentiator is the #hashtag’s ability to on-board us into a timeline with others, “around a virtual campfire”. This may be a topic, event or the live TV/Twitter combo, a particular favourite of mine
Twitter recently announced that it had hit 284 million active users and predicts total revenue of $1.3bn for 2014 — up from no revenue at all four years ago.
Twitter was however, far from an overnight-success, but rather evolved through many “wrong turns” and iterations before the Twitter bird landed “on the right perch”. , To get the full lowdown on the various founders’ multiple failures that culminated in Twitter’s eventual success, check out, “Hatching Twitter” -the eBook by@nickbilton . One ‘tipping point’, where Twitter really began to gain traction, was at the annual SXSW event in Austin, Texas in 2007, the year after it was first ‘hatched’. In the seven years since then, it has continued to flourish and though its subscriber numbers are still far from approaching those of Facebook, I believe it to be a far more exciting and dynamic platform.

Also, it’s no longer viewed as being a place where, “people just talk about what they had for breakfast”.
I never did figure out which Superhero mask Dolores was wearing …??

Getting Your Message Across

How Email gets you heard above the social chatter

Recently I got a hand-written thank-you note in my letterbox.  It made me feel like we did as kids, when we received birthday cards. It felt good that the sender had taken the trouble to personally message me through this medium. Much like a hand-written note, a well constructed email campaign is personal and direct. Regardless of our views about email, most of us start the working day by checking our inbox. So, giving brands permission to deliver directly into your inbox, by opting-in to their email campaign, is a valuable indicator that you want to hear their message, (be it a special offer, newsletter or even a reminder to pay our tax.) However, in order to maximise open rates and minimise unsubscribers, this message must be relevant and timely.

While so much attention is paid to all the shinny social channels, the most proven route for businesses and marketers to digitally reach your target audience is by email. Effective digital marketing blends the various social channels with email to achieve the desired results.   Each of the main social networks have unique ways to help you grow subscribers and promote your email campaigns.

  • An email sign-up App on Facebook is a great way to grow your subscribers.
  • LinkedIn email templates, for connections, are a novel way to grow your subscribers.
  • Twitter Cards can act as a great lead generation tool to grow your subscribers

These are some of the reasons I advise clients that using an email platform is a great way to be heard above the social noise and reach your target audience in a personalised manner.  The medium through which we deliver our messaging really matters. .. though nothing beats sending a hand-written note.

My Top 10 Tips for Effective Networking

When it comes to creating strong connections, networking is most effective when online and offline activity are combined. Social postings can help build our personas, but it can also be difficult to be ‘heard above the noise’ of the millions of daily online posts.

I helped build and grow an online community on Irish Social Network, shutterstock_Networking RendezVous353. We attracted more than 10,000 Irish people globally. To achieve this we used Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I discovered when physically launching the network in London and New York, however, that ‘on the ground’ networking was as important as the online activity.

Each of us has a combination of strong and weak connections within our networks. We all need to work at improving our networking skills. Here are some tips to help nurture your own business network.

1. Harry, Meet Sally
As appropriate, make introductions between your connections. Ideally you should seek the permission of both parties. We all remember those people who made introductions for us which proved beneficial to our businesses.

2. Pay It Forward
Reach out to share information that may help your contacts. It’s good to ‘pay it forward’ and not to be always looking for something for ourselves in return. This attitude has been a key component in the success of Silicon Valley’s start-up ethos.

3. Give  Due Credit
Engage with connections directly by congratulating them on new jobs. This also gives you a chance to update them on your current situation and explore possible synergies that may exist between your product or service and theirs.

4. Ask To Get
The old adage is true: if you don’t ask you don’t get. Use the knowledge and influence of your network, by asking for help when you need it. Most people are glad to help, if they can. It is equally good to engage and offer your help to others.  After all, what’s the point in building networks if we don’t help each other?

5. Personalised Contact
Send links to articles, blogs or other postings you think may be relevant to your connections. As with all things digital, these should be timely and relevant and be sure to personalise.

6. Cut Back To Grow
Another useful task to perform periodically is to ‘prune’ connections you have who, on reflection, may not be relevant. It’s easy on LinkedIn, for example, to ‘Remove a Connection’. You won’t cause offence, as they won’t be aware that you have done this. Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to connections. Isn’t it better to have fewer, but stronger, links?

7. Nurture Connections
After the above ‘pruning’ process, outlined above, it may be useful to re-introduce yourself to contacts you value but may not have engaged with for some time.

8. Are You Engaged?
Making connections without engaging with them is like joining a gym and never using it – a wasted opportunity. When it comes to social networking, building connections or followers isn’t enough in itself to help raise your online profile. You need to engage. On Twitter this can be achieved by retweeting, replying or favouriting. On LinkedIn or Facebook commenting on posts or group discussions or ‘liking’ are effective ways to engage.

9. Checking In 
If you don’t have a specific reason to contact a connection, it’s often worth checking-in with them anyway. Give them a brief update on your business and enquire about theirs. You never know when you might ‘jog their memory’ about the service you offer and perhaps prompt a business opportunity.

10. Face Up
Try, when possible, to meet with your connections face to face. Social networking is all well and good, but you can’t beat good old-fashioned meetings. People appreciate you taking the trouble to meet them. Often the conversations we engage in at these meetings produce serendipitous opportunities, which may not have happened online.

by Pat Carroll                                                                                                                                   Founder of digital marketing and networking consultancy : Touch Communications