A great deal of my career success is rooted in my ability to understand and grow meaningful relationships, which many people refer to as “networking.” While I came of age in the pre-digital era where Palm Pilots were “state of the art,” with the arrival of social platforms, networking has taken on a whole new global landscape of opportunities.
Now, almost anyone, anywhere can be viewed as a potential contact to meet, serve and potentially do business with. As glorious, and limitless, as this new world sounds, it is a daunting task to figure out how to effectively grow your relationship “rolodex” of individuals key to your success. Therefore, I’m opening up my smart phone to list out my top 10 networking apps and tools to help you meet and stay connected with the people who truly matter to you and your business.
- LinkedIn. Yes, LinkedIn is an obvious choice, but how well do you really use it? It isn’t just for people with an eye on transitioning to a new position. LinkedIn is a must for anyone looking to grow their business persona. Start by connecting and joining communities. Comment on posts. If you are feeling ambitious, write a regular blog so you can share your particular viewpoint with the world. This will not only help grow your following or discover something new in your field, it will make you more attractive to employers, helping them see you beyond the limitations of a resume. That way, they’ll have a fuller idea of what you bring to the table. My team and I spend hours every week on LinkedIn cold-researching people so we can better serve others.
- LinkedIn Connected. I promise this isn’t a love letter to LinkedIn, but when you are the #1 site for professionals, you might make the list twice. Where LinkedIn is a way to stay on top of your contacts, Connected is like their “digital assistant,” reminding you of key dates and milestones for your network, so you’ll always know about birthdays, promotions and other updates in a more user-friendly experience. Trust me, I never leave home without it … since it’s on my phone and I would be horribly lost if I did.
- Twitter. Not really going too far out on a limb, but with over 100 million daily users, you can’t afford not to have a presence. I will be the first to admit that Twitter for personal networking growth isn’t for everyone. It can be a confusing place and has perhaps the most unique language attached to any social platform—hashtags, trending and retweets, OH MY!—but what makes Twitter great for making that first move is that you can follow the contacts, learn what is important to them and eventually reach out and generously ping them. And if you’re feeling ambitious, Twitter is a great way to drive traffic back to articles you post on LinkedIn!
- Triggerfox. (Full disclosure, I helped the founders develop its IP and you’ll see my face and best-practice tips in and around the app.) What Triggerfox does, outside of provide interesting valuable information on leads, is help you manage your contacts with supplemental information derived from social media, giving you new opportunities to stay top-of-mind with your most important contacts. They even send handwritten notes that you’ve composed to those individuals—the note is all yours, with Triggerfox handling the delivery.
- MINE. I stumbled across this app because my office uses this company’s paid-for-online-service: Relationship Science. This is like the free little brother to RelSci. MINE is your daily news service on your contacts delivered to your phone and on your LinkedIn. If it can match that person with an individual it has in its database, be prepared to get alerts on anything that happens to them. This is an excellent source for pinging and can also alert you for reasons to reach out and check in. There’s also a paid service where you can learn how you connect to someone else, meaning you can map the steps it would take you to reach a new acquaintance leveraging the people you already know—a road map to warm introductions. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t used that data once in a while.
- Weave. Do you like to live on the edge? If so, this app might be perfect for you. In short, using geo-location like Tinder, you can swipe through business professionals in your area and, if you both express interest, you can message each other to meet up. This is great for someone new to an area (particularly in the start-up world) and looking to meet people. It lacks the strategic relationship planning I advocate, but it can be a valuable tool. In order for this app to be truly valuable though, it will need to attract a large user base, so the jury is still out on this one. I do like it for its creativity, though.
- Refresh. There is no worse feeling than shaking someone’s hand and having no idea who they are or why they have that big friendly grin on their face. Never fear, Refresh is here! Salesforce acquired this app for obvious reasons and only made it more powerful. I highly recommend it as a way to jar your memory or prepare for that last-minute meeting.
- Email. Perhaps you have heard of email? It’s like regular mail, only faster—and with attachments. This may seem like a cop-out, but never underestimate the power of email. Even Twitter and LinkedIn utilize email to drive people back to their apps. When used in tandem with the above platforms, a well-timed email can be the most valuable asset in your bag of tricks.
- Google Alerts. When your name is synonymous with being the main online source for everything, people come to expect, well, everything from you. With Google Alerts, you enter keywords and leverage Google’s reach on the Internet for daily, or even real-time, updates. If used cleverly, and the keywords are selected with care, you might just find a valuable nugget on a key individual that you can leverage to get in front of them in a big way.
- UberConference. Ok, so I am straying a bit here, but I’m sharing what I use, and I use UberConference constantly. This system has not only made dialing in to conferences easier (the no PIN number option alone is worth the switch), it also allows for screen-sharing, provides you the ability to record and breaks down total talk-time, per participant per call. My team at Ferrazzi Greenlight is currently trying to analyze those data points to see if there is a correlation between successful sales calls and the amount each individual (either FG employee or client) speaks during a call—if we discover anything cool, I promise to share.
[Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Do not misuse these amazing tools, it will reflect poorly upon yourself and could potentially damage your career growth. When in doubt, lead with generosity and seek to be of service to these new connections, and your personal growth will occur naturally.]
So there you have it, my list of apps, tools and tricks that I believe will give you an edge in the ever-growing world of networking. Some things change—like how we reach out and where the information is coming from—but some things are eternal: The more you can relate to individuals on a personal level, and the more you can help them, the more they’ll reach back to help you further your own goals, both professionally and personally.