Last week I wrote a post about networking and how it can impact your efforts with social media. Today I’d like to build on that topic by explaining how you can take your networking efforts to the next level.
Most of us who are active with blogging and social media are in contact with a significant number of others each week. In some cases it may be just a blog comment here or there, or it could be something much deeper. Those who are a part of your network with whom you have a stronger than normal connection are a part of your inner circle.
An inner circle is nothing more than an informal group of friends that you can count on when you need some help or advice, and they feel the same about you. These are people who are genuinely interested in each other’s success.
Why is an Inner Circle Important?
If you’ve built up a huge network of contacts in your niche or industry but you have no one that you would consider to be a part of your inner circle, you’re missing out on some great benefits of networking. An inner circle is really what networking is about.
Help and Advice
At some point we could all benefit by running some ideas by others that we can trust. For example, I’m currently working through some ideas for a new website and last week I emailed one of my friends to ask her opinion on some domain names that I’m considering. Of course I have my own opinions, but it’s helpful for me to get an unbiased opinion of someone that’s successful in the niche whose judgment I trust. Without anyone to turn to I would have to base my decision only on my own opinion.
I sometimes get emails from others asking for my advice on other situations where I have more experience. It’s really everyone just being willing to help others when they can.
Benefit from the Expertise of Others
Having a strong inner circle gives you the opportunity to tap in to the expertise of others in your field. You can sometimes save yourself from making a mistake just by getting some feedback from someone who has more experience. Ideally, those in your inner circle will have some variety in their abilities and experience, that way everyone has some unique way to help others.
Having an inner circle, and networking in general, isn’t just so you can get help when you need it. Of course, that’s one of the perks, but it’s really about everyone being better off as a result of the relationship. When a few people help each other it lifts the level of everyone’s success.
If you’ve been blogging for a while you’ve probably noticed that your blog goes through cycles in terms of those who reads and participates. I’ve noticed this on my own blogs as well as many others. You may have a few people who comment on every post you publish right now, but chances are that won’t last forever. A few months from now you’ll have some others who seem to comment all the time, but that won’t last either. Most likely those who used to comment every day will still be subscribers, but those readers who you are in constant contact with will be changing all the time.
An inner circle is different in that these people are more permanent contacts. Sure, your inner circle will change over a period of time, but since these are people who are genuinely interested in you and your success, they’re usually going to stay in contact in one way or another. Those who I would consider to be a part of my inner circle will comment on my blog from time-to-time, but certainly not every day. However, when I need some advice I know I can send them an email and they’ll do what they can to help me out. Likewise, I’m going to be there for them when they need some help.
Tips for Forming Your Inner Circle
1. Think about who is already in your circle.
Most likely you’ve already got a few members of your network who really stand out as being true friends to you. You may not have ever thought of them as being a part of your inner circle, but essentially they are. It’s not about classification of who is in your inner circle and who’s not, it’s more about who is interested in you and who you are interested in as well.
If you already have some strong relationships that you value, make sure that you do what you can to be a valuable resource for those people. Maybe you want to send an email just to see how they’re doing and see if there is any way you can help them right now. Maybe you can link to them from your blog or submit one of their posts to a social media site.
2. Think about those who are in your network who you would like to know better.
You’re probably already in casual contact with some others that you would like to be a part of your inner circle. If this is the case, again, do what you can to be a valuable resource to them.
3. Focus on helping others and being available to them.
In order to have a strong inner circle, you need to be willing and able to help others. If you take this approach you’ll find yourself with plenty of others who are there for you when you need them.
4. Keep it small.
You’re not going to have 100 people in your inner circle. More likely you might have 5 or 10 (or maybe even less). In order to have this type of strong relationship, you can’t possibly include a large number of people. It’s still a good idea to have a large number of other contacts in your network, but most of them will never become one of your most trusted sources, and that’s fine.
I mentioned earlier that it’s helpful if those in your inner circle have different strengths and abilities. This is a good idea because you’ll always have someone specific that you can turn to, and others will be able to benefit from your unique knowledge. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have others with the same skills, but look for opportunities to diversify.
6. Take initiative.
You may have others make the first step to build on the connection with you, but don’t just wait for that to happen. Be an active networker and look for opportunities to strengthen your friendships and build deeper and more mutually beneficial relationships.
7. Know what you can bring to the table.
If networking is a two way street you should be aware of your strengths and how you can be the most valuable to those in your inner circle.
What’s Your Experience?
Do you have others that you would consider to be a part of your inner circle? Do you see a need for having a small number of strong relationships?