The other day I got a quick, early morning workout in at our neighborhood YMCA. I was a little surprised when I noticed nearly 80 percent of those working out were 70 or older. It was like a scene straight out of the 1980s hit “Cocoon” (OK, I’m dating myself now). Then, I started to notice the elderly gentleman working out on the treadmill next to me had a steady stream of visitors. The guy knew virtually every person who walked by. I immediately and affectionately dubbed him “the mayor.”
Where am I going with this story?
This guy clearly has a very large social network. If he knows this many folks at the Y–how many do you think he knows at his local church? How big is his network of friends, former coworkers and extended family? I’m guessing it’s huge. Remember, he’s the “mayor.”
Point is, as we invest significant time and energy in online networks and tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s wise not to forget the personal, “offline” networks we’ve built over the years. It’s incredible to be able to connect with people like Danny Brown, Mack Collier and Sarah Evans in Twitterville. But, the lunches I had last week with my good friends Sara Masters and Brie Gunderson were just as important.
It’s the same principles, but that face time makes all the difference. It’s irreplaceable. It’s no wonder you see Twitter relationships blossom after people meet at TweetUps or at conferences. I’ve noticed a few instances of this online recently–Shannon Paul, Amber Naslund, Liz Strauss and others connecting in Chicago. Mack Collier and other “tweeting up” in Hunstville. Once these folks meet in person, it cements the relationship. They’re instantly more likely to provide advice. To point out interesting articles. And to help each other along the way.
So tonight, instead of spending an extra 30 minutes on Twitter or 20 minutes updating your Facebook status and sharing photos, try one of the following:
* Reach out to a former colleague, ask them to lunch and see what’s new in their world.
* Call a member of your professional organization whom you’ve fallen out of touch with and find out how you can help them.
* Send a personal, handwritten note to a former manager and tell them how they made a difference in your professional life.
* Meet someone new by asking one of your current colleagues or partners to introduce you to a person in their network whom they think you may share common interests. Great way to expand and diversify your network.
* Always wanted to connect with someone at Google, Nike or Best Buy? Ask your people in your personal network if they know folks at these organizations. And if they do, would they mind brokering an introduction?
Building and nurturing these personal relationships will complement your online networks nicely and give you additional opportunities to learn, collaborate and share in 2009. And, in an economy like the one we’re mired in now, that’s more important than ever.
What about you? What will you do in the weeks ahead to solidify your offline networks? Any other tips to share?