How to build a network and stay in touch

Gert Mellak
Forget about net worth - build your network. Seriously, think about it:

What do the most successful people you know have in common?

They have been building a network of amazing people around them they trust.

However, building such a network takes time!

Why build a network in the first place?

The actual value of a network isn't going to be seen immediately - it comes at different stages of your life: when launching a new business, asking for a trusted expert in X anybody might have worked with before, or even sharing experiences when it comes to business-related topics or shared hobbies.
  • Ever ran into a garding issue? I bet someone on your network knows this stuff, or knows someone who might be an expert.
  • I personally like woodworking, and am happy to have 2 woodworking professionals in my network.
  • Need someone to help you with your business? Connect with me, I might be able to give you some guidance with my own methodology.

You won't build your network overnight, so start today!

Building a network means establish a relation with many many people in your industry, but also other completely different industries. Such relations often get initiated on social media!

Be social

Social media is best used as a "social" environment to engage with each other. Dedicating time regularly to social media activity can be helping you enormously to build your network, as long as you take one key rule into account: your network will be built in the comments, not in your posts!
Where the real social magic happens is when discussing topics in the comments section or the twitter threads with others. This is where
  • people start following others because of their insightful or interesting contributions
  • direct messages can start getting sent without being ignored
  • value is being exchanged between like-minded folks

What do you bring to the table?

A trusted relationship between yourself and another individual requires a value exchange: What do you bring to the table that's valuable for the other person? What experience, intel, or other form of value are they able to offer that can bring you ahead in your game?
Focusing discussions on giving part of your value can rapidly strengthen your relationship with the other person, and make them part of your personal or professional network.

Take it to the next level

While in today's social media world it's easy to connect with almost everybody via comments or DM, this is still a written interaction somewhat limited by the platform you're using, be it twitter, instagram messages, or facebook messenger.
To take a trusted social media relationship to the next level, a face-to-face conversation is ideal. You might want to ask social media connections to have a "virtual coffee" over zoom some day to share experiences around topic X.
Face-to-face contact, even if only over zoom, greatly intensifies a relationship and gives you a reason to stay in touch:
— snip

Hey <name>,

Thanks again for the great chat we had a couple of weeks ago. I've actually followed your suggestion about X and got great value out of it. Let's do this again some time!

— snip

Events are where the magic happens

One of the most underestimated things are events. It was James Schramko who actually told me about it, and convinced me to fly from Madrid to Sydney to attend his event SuperFastBusiness Live in 20219, and it's been the best I could have done at that time!


Here's the real secret:

At conferences, you'll most likely get the least value out of the presentations themselves. It's good to hear new things about your industry, but the real value is elsewhere:

When going to your next in-person event, I encourage you to focus on strengthening and building out your network! Events are where you can meet people from your existing network in person (sometimes for the first time). Events are also where you will be able to get in touch with people you might only know from reading their blog or the comment section of some blog you follow.

Over the years I've refined a methodology I usually apply before an actual event:
  • check who is sharing on social media that they are at a certain event + connect with them
  • try to arrange meeting them at the event if possible - it's going to be crowded, but you might exchange cell phone numbers to get in touch at the event and find each other
  • repeatedly connect with those people referring to the event, especially shortly before (1 or 2 days before the actual event) so they still remember you
  • connect with more people before the event than you can actually talk to there, you might not get round to actually finding some of them, so build in some "buffer"
Following these tips, even if you wouldn't have known anybody at the event, you already have a good excuse to approach quite a few people to say hi (especially great for people having a hard time approaching strangers).

Personal gifts via mail

Everybody likes to get a gift. Once a relationship has reached a level where you might already have each other's mobile phone number and maybe write a whatsapp message here and there, it's a good time to ask for their physical address to send them a gift.
The reason is twofold:
  • in today's world, physical mail sticks out - everybody gets a rush when amazon sends you a package - imagine the emotion that comes from receiving a small gift via mail from a friend or connection
  • a physical gift is something special - it's going to remind them of you at different moments in their life, they might even share a picture about it on social media at times - it's something very very personal.
Such a gift is ideally something very personal. If you happen to know they're into skiing, a skiing wax kit could be an ideal present - it shows that you care for what they are interested in!

Maintain the contact

Sometimes it's harder to maintain the contact with your network, and to be honest, reaching out to someone today who you haven't been in touch for over several years is not going to put you in an awkward position.
I personally recommend you make a conscious effort to stay in touch with your connections - I've seen people even keep a spreadsheet or notion document about the people they actively want to stay in touch because they feel those relationship are and will be very valuable. Set up a recurring note in your calendar to make sure every Friday your reach out to 2 people on your list of important contacts to check in with them, invite them to a zoom call, send them a DM on social or comment on some of their contributions to social or blog articles.
This is such an important topic, I've even built a training around it, check it out!
Author: Gert Mellak
Gert Mellak is an entrepreneur, agency owner and investor.
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