Once upon a time, you used to search for topics on the Internet by using a key search term. Though this is still the case, the manner in which your favorite search engine connects you to the ideal results has changed.
You used to get a list of search results based on the number of keywords in the article or the blog post. But what the search engines began to realize is that all of those keywords may have matched up well to the search, and yet they didn't offer the person doing the searching any sort of quality results or information.
Things then changed. Today, search engines will rank articles based on the quality of the articles. Networking is much the same way.
However, there are cases on both sides as to whether you should focus on quality or quantity when you're trying to increase your business connections.
The Case for Quality
The current thought in networking is that you should find quality connections. This means you should find people who are directly related to what you are trying to achieve. Now, how you define quality will depend on the goals you have set for yourself in this process.
Why do you want to connect with this person/organization?
What are your long-term thoughts on this connection?
How will you benefit each other?
When you stop to think about these various ideas, you will begin to see there are certain people who are ideal connections, and certain others who are not going to serve your goals.
As you begin to look for quality connections, you will notice you have a narrower field in which to look. You have specific tastes, which means you don't look at just anyone's profile, and you don't talk to just anyone.
You also don't have a lot of people in your social media accounts, and you might not have a lot of connections in your LinkedIn account, as others who may focus on quantity.
If this is the strategy you use, you will notice:
You can interact on a deeper level – When you don't have as many people to talk to and to build relationships with, you can talk to them at a deeper level. This doesn't mean you need to build personal relationships, but you will have time to talk about things that are outside of business. As a result, this often makes the connections stronger and longer lasting, even outside of the business world.
The time you spend generates results – Since you have qualified the people you are connecting with in your network, you already know they want to be a part of what you have to offer. Though not everyone will want to buy whatever you're selling, you will notice your networking efforts do lead to results, not just more numbers of connections (although that can also happen).
You have a higher success rate – You may notice you do have measurable results from your network. Though the numbers will certainly vary depending on the industry and the people in your network, most find that they have a higher ROI (Return on Investment) than they anticipated. For the work they put in, they will more often than not make some sort of financial gain.
You have a solid following/network – If you take your time and you build a strong network, you will also build a network that will stick around. These aren't people who are just there for the moment. They are going to be a part of your connections for a longer period of time, which can add up to more sales, revenue, stability, etc.
Quality networking is considered to be the standard in today's business world, but that doesn't mean it's the only way – or even the best way in all industries. Certainly, there is a case for building up a networking of connections that is based on the number of people you can have in your network.
The Case for Quantity
Since you've probably already started to understand why quantity may not serve your networking goals as well as you though, you probably don't think there are any arguments for quantity.
But that's not entirely true.
Having a larger network does have its unique benefits, and it is certainly a way to gain more exposure and more necessary exposure in some industries.
Quantity helps sales – When you want to increase your overall sales results, you need to have more clients or more clients who are willing to buy more. When you have a larger pool of clients, it makes sense that this might lead to more results. In addition, the more people you have that are current or even prospective clients, the more people will be around when others are not able to make purchases.Interested in learning more? Why not take an online class in Successfully Networking Your Career?
Quantity drives exposure – It's true, the more people you know, the more people they know will find out about you. The exposure you can get is a good thing, but it also means you need to be ready to maintain a professional rapport with everyone, even if you didn't connect with them initially.
Quantity encourages more connections – In many cases, the more connections you have, the more others will want to connect with you. And even if you don't encourage these connections, they can still happen.
Quantity encourages more referrals – Since you have more connections, this can increase the possibility of people referring you to others. Even though you may not have qualified those leads, you will have a larger opportunity to get exposure to people you may not have met otherwise.
Though it's true that quantity doesn't mean you have connections that are valuable, it does allow you to be more exposed in your industry.
At the same time, it can be worthwhile to think about who you really want in your network.
With all of this in mind, perhaps there is a happy middle ground that can be enjoyed by the professional networker.
Know who you want to reach – It can't be said enough that you need to know who your target networking audience is. Who do you want to connect to? What do they do? What will they do for you? What can you do for them?
Only connect with those you will be able to support – To make sure you're not connecting too many people in your network, think about who you can support in your everyday activities. If you can't reach out to people on a regular basis, or you're not willing to, you might want to rethink how many people are in your network.
Focus on how you can help a person or how they can help you – Whenever you have an opportunity to connect with someone, evaluate who they are and whether they are valuable in your work or your goals. You can easily determine and measure this by reading their profile.
Weed out 'bad' connections – Now and again, it's a good idea to see if you have connections you can drop from your social media or other lists. This will help you spend more time on the people that really matter.
Treat your connections well – When you do have a strong network, you need to make sure you're treating them well. Communicate with them, help out, and keep them in the loop about what you're doing.
The more you can focus on the overall strategy, instead of just looking at numbers or what people can do for you, the more successful you will be in networking. This is a process of establishing connections, and connections take time – just as they do in your personal relationships.