Like most business people you probably attend a lot of events that are focused on meeting others.  The opportunity to extend your network is often the main attraction of some of these meet and greets or mixers.

That’s all good, and potentially entertaining.  But that good collection of business cards or cache of LinkedIn connections is just that, good.  But it’s not great.  The value of your network isn’t in its size, but in its breadth and reach.  The best way to tap into your network power is to use it as a verb, “to network” or, to actively use your contacts as referrals.

If your connection is basically a stranger, let them know that you are looking for A or B and that they are welcome to share your info with an appropriate person.  Don’t assume that they know that you are open to other introductions.  You can increase your number and types of referrals simply by letting your connections know that you are open to meeting new people and telling them what kind of people that you would like to meet.

 

Conversely, ask your new contact how you can help him or her.   Providing useful introductions between people in your network solidifies your image as a helpful and valuable contact.  You can even go one step further and share or promote your contacts’ work within your network with a general update, instead of making just a specific share to one person.

 

If you do make an introduction or a referral, be sure to highlight things that are “mutually beneficial”.  Help each party understand that value can be as simple as why you think they may enjoy connecting.  One other positive thing that you can do to turn your network into referrals is to be sure that everything that you do is on a positive note.  Do your best to make your contact look good and display value.  Most people appreciate any efforts that enhance their reputation.

 

There’s no right way to network, but there are plenty of potential missteps.  Keep things active but light and positive.  Most of all, strive to be truly helpful.  Touch base with that group of passive contacts in a way that is valuable to them and help you really connect with your connections.