My recent post “Five Rules for the Well Connected Executive” was recently called out for not including the most common way many people stay connected – the internet.  I guess I was showing my age with old school face-to-face communication methods. (I am surprised I didn’t include smoke signals in my post, aren’t you?)  So, without further adieu, here is Part 2 for staying well connected: Using the Internet.

    Rule #1: Be Social. I don’t care whether you choose Twitter, Facebook or Linked In, but create a page on a social media site and put your toe in the water, if you haven’t already.  Even if all you do is connect with cousins and kids, it gives you a chance to listen in on the conversation.  And that’s a BIG part of networking, remember?  Listening.  It wont take long before you’ll find people talking about something you want to comment on.  Start simple with “Liking” other people’s comments.  I am on all three platforms and use them for completely different things: Linked In is my professional face.  I only post about work-related items and almost all of my connections are work connections.  Twitter is mostly made up of my geek friends and I follow a lot of smart people just to see which website has caught their interest.  Twitter is a pretty low-commitment relationship mechanism. It’s how I hear about a lot of interesting things outside of my field.  Facebook is purely for friends and family.  I keep up with a family strung across the US, old classmates, a couple of past husbands and friends who are overseas.  I use Linked In more than the average person and I will have a new posting on maximizing Linked In shortly.

    Rule#2: Return emails. OK, I am the FIRST one to tell you how much I hate the two word “thank you” or “got it” email.  But, that is not nearly as annoying as the “never heard from again” email.  If you get an email, make it a rule to return some sort of response within 2 days.  Even better, when you send an email and do not expect a response, include “No Response Needed” in the subject line.  I actually read those first because someone has gone to the trouble of thinking through how the recipient  should respond!  Make your email subject lines relevant.  I often get emails that are replies to  “Re: Friday Meeting Minutes” that  are about marketing guidelines or something like that because the person replying was too lazy to change the topic.  If the conversation topic in a chain of emails has changed, change the subject line to make it easier to find items in the future.  In any case, nothing chills a relationship faster than emails that are never responded to.  That being said….

    Rule #3: Stop Keeping Score.  If you value a relationship that has gone cold through email or otherwise, do not assume the person meant to end it.  So if you are waiting because, “you communicated last and now its their turn,” get over yourself.  Pick up the phone and when you get their voice mail (because if they are too busy to return your emails they are probably too busy to answer the phone) use your cheerful voice to say you miss them and want to set up time soon to get together and then offer a few dates and times.  Chances are, when they hear you are not looking for them to do something or are reminding them that they “owe” you a response, they will be encouraged to reply.  There are times when we all get more than we give.  Cut them a break and be the bigger person who stops keeping score.

    Rule #4: Create new connections.  If you follow regular communication practices, you probably are surprised by the dozens of connections you have.  Still, new connections keep your mind engaged and your knowledge growing.  When you read something interesting on someone’s blog, make sure you comment on it and tell them what you like about it.  If they reply back, (and they should) connect to them through the appropriate channel: Linked In, Twitter or Facebook.  Then, check in from time to time to let them know what is new with you or pass along an item that may be relevant to them.

    Rule #5: Find ways to be relevant. Subscribe to an trade daily or weekly newsletter in your industry and several that are related or to hobby newsletters. When you glance through them, don’t just read them for yourself, but also for the people in your network.  When you see an interesting topic, forward it to the right people who might also share an interest.  That way, you don’t have to rely on your own creative juices to find a reason to reach out.  Some of my favorites are the newsletter and NRF smart brief for retail industry news, seth’s blog for geek/business news and shareology and agency babylon for Twin Cities news.

    Heck, I bet you have a lot of ways you have used the internet to maintain your network.  I’d love to hear your ideas.  Send them in and I will post your additions to this blog post.