There’s been a lot of talk the last couple of years about “loose ties” and the power of our online connections. I thought it would be a good time to take a new look at these connections, and zero in on what I call the “loyal tie.”
Besides family and very close friends, I have three kinds of connections:
· Random connections- people I connect with online in a random fashion; they come and go like fireflies and make life a little more interesting- indeed, random connections drive Twitter.
· “Loose Tie”: Regular connections I make online and stay connected with by regular sharing. I have a lot of these on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and consider them important.
· Personal, strong connections (the “loyal tie”) - these are the ones who’ll go to bat for me and vice versa. Some of these what I consider actual friends, others are just very close business relationships. Most of these are on Facebook with me, and they may be connected with me on Linkedin or Twitter. But I see these platforms as just more ways to stay really connected to them, along with email and in some case, telephone chats or IM.
I see enormous value in my loose ties, as I said in a recent post-you really never know which of these will evolve into deeper relationships, which ones will lead to opportunities.
But nothing, I mean nothing, replaces loyal tie relationships.
These are the people who will go the extra mile for you, and expect you to do the same. One guy I worked with over 10 years ago called me last week and said he’d stumbled on a possible project for us; it didn’t pan out, but I was overjoyed he made the effort to reach out (how many people will do this?).
Where do these “loyal ties” come from? Most are people I’ve worked with in past jobs, or met and came to know along the way, besides online. When you’re working with someone, it’s almost like living with them-actually, you are living with them (corporate organizations are like families to me, and yes some are pretty dysfunctional). You develop a deeper type of bond that can carry on for years.
My mistake a few years ago was treating them like loose ties. Hey-join me on Twitter with my 3,000 other connections, or let’s connect on Facebook or Linkedin. That obviously diminishes the relationship; makes it feel less real, cheap.
So now I try to nourish those relationships appropriately. Three examples:
· Share material with them specific to their lives, jobs, families. One vp of marketing I know has two kids in college, so if I see a particularly good piece on college (ex: financing college) I’ll zap it over to him.
· Alert them to job opportunities: of course I’ll share job leads if I know they’re looking for a job. But I also keep on the lookout for hidden job opportunities, for instance a group needs someone to manage a short term project or develop some presentations.
· Holiday cards, birthday wishes, thank you or inspiration cards, etc: The “little touches” still count. Anyone can shoot off an email. How many times have you received a real card in the mail from someone you did a favor for?
The key is for the relationships to be mutually beneficial and authentic-yes, an overused term but appropriate here.
Many so-called networking experts have focused on trying to transform business connections into something deeper that can lead to opportunities. An example is the book Never Eat Alone. The problem with these is many smack of exploitation- faking it to get what benefits you (I remember one example where a network-driven author would actually offer to take contacts to church in a thinly veiled scheme to strengthen the relationship). You need to reverse that; think first about what you can do your for your loyal tie; worry about yourself later.
Bottom line: treat it like a real relationship. For instance, don’t annoy them with marketing pitches. If you need help, ask for it. Be real. Pick up the phone and have a real discussion, not just a drive-by tweet or email.
That’s what social media is about anyway, right?
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