I had a chance to sit down with Porter Gale former VP of Marketing for Virgin America and author of the new book, Your Network is Your Net Worth to discuss some of the topics that you will see at the Social Shake-Up Conference. The following is a transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!
SMT: Talk a little bit about the role that networking plays in today’s economy.
PG: Networking is more and more important because the world is getting smaller and smaller. What I mean by that is that in the past we were six degrees of separation apart. But now because of technology, we’re three or four degrees apart. So what’s happening with the economy is that more and more jobs are being filled through internal referrals, and internal connections. We’re also seeing a lot of decision-making processes in purchase decisions that are being influenced by shared connections. So it’s really important now with the world of having an online and an offline brand to really think about the power of your network and how it can impact your success and your happiness.
SMT: Why is it so hard for some people to do networking? What’s holding them back?
PG: A lot of people actually think of networking with kind of a negative connotation. Maybe the word “schmoozing” might be one that people associate with it. Other people are just fearful about meeting new people. What I’ve recommended to people is instead of thinking of it as a transaction where you’re just trying to get tons of business cards out into the marketplace, think of it as authentic, transformational relationships. Go for quality relationships over quantity and try to connect with people that share your passions and values. When you do that, you’re going to have a more successful and a more enjoyable time networking.
SMT: Do you have any advice to individuals who are just starting out and building their network?
PG: I advise for a new person who’s entering the job market is there is no better time to start building your network than now. It’s the relationships that you are creating now through internships or job experiences. There was a quote by Steve Jobs in his famous Stamford speech where he said you can’t connect the dots until you look back. So I really encourage people now to get out and network at events that are relevant to their industry, to keep researching, and try to figure out who the influencers are in their category, and dive in and try to get connected in the industry that you’re interested in.
SMT: What role is social media playing in all this networking?
PG: Social media has changed the way that we network because, again, we have both an online and an offline persona now. Social media has accelerated the way that we connect. It’s given us the ability to connect with people online that we might not have been able to reach before. Time and time again you hear stories of people connecting with a CEO on Twitter or a sports figure. So it’s reduced the separation between contacts.
And then it’s also increased our “circle of empathy”. Steven Pinker who has done a lot of research in this space found that in the past, we had probably 10 to 15 people in our core circle. But now with social media, we have about 150 people that are in our networks at any given time. So it’s increased our circle of empathy. James Fowler also did some research on this – that people can actually feel waves of emotion going through their social networks. So for example, recently there was a gentleman from NPR that was sharing about his mother passing away through Twitter. Obviously, people that were reading his tweets could feel emotion, sentiment, and thoughts for him. So social media has accelerated, amplified, and it’s really brought connecting to a new level and made it a global playing field.
SMT: So is there a right way to use social media in order to network?
PG: Yes, there are a couple of principles that I believe. One is to first of all figure out what you’re trying to accomplish and what you care about. Just like a brand would go through the steps of figuring out their mission, I think people need to think about what kind of personality they’re trying to build online.
For example, if you’re interested in country music, you might be tweeting and posting about country music. If you’re interested in sports and fitness, you might be tweeting about that. So talk about the things that you care about and you’re passionate about.
I also recommend focusing in on a couple of social media sites instead of spreading yourself too thin. For example, Instagram would be good for someone who’s trying to communicate very visual messages. Facebook might be good for a small business that’s trying to have some interesting connection and engagement with their audience. Again, go for quality over quantity.
Another thing that’s important is use social media without expecting anything in return. So you need to be using it and not expecting a tweet or a retweet for every one of your actions. You’re using it to communicate value to a community. And make sure what you’re putting out there isn’t just spam. You don’t want to overwhelm people with posts where they’re going to start unfollowing you.
SMT: Do you recommend any technologies to help organize your networking efforts?
PG: There are so many apps and so many different ways to organize your online networking that, first of all, I would recommend doing some research based on what you’re trying to find. For basic things like business cards, some people use CardMunch or shoebox.com to make sure that you’re tracking your contacts.
If you’re trying to minimize the amount of time on social sites, using a platform like HootSuite or something that integrates your posts across platforms is really important. There are also apps like Here On Biz that you can put on your smartphone now where it integrates into your LinkedIn data, and you can use it when you’re traveling and it will show you if people in your network are in nearby locations. There are apps like Evernote and Dropbox the list goes on and on and on. But definitely leverage technology to enhance your networking.
SMT: Will you be speaking at the Social Shake-Up event?
PG: Yes, I am speaking at the Social Shake-Up, and I’m very excited about it. In fact, I’ll be talking about my new book, Your Network is Your Net Worth. And I believe all attendees also will be getting a free copy of the book. I think it’s going to be a really fun and engaged event, and I’m really looking forward to being there.