Grow your network exponentially from the sofa, with a glass of wine

I used to attend an event called the Birmingham Social Media Cafe. This was back in the day when it was partly organized by someone who now works at Bloomberg. So, you know, I used to associate with some fancy company, or at least I did back then. We would go to this cafe to socialize and meet people we knew online in person. I remember one day when two friends and I were sitting at a table, a woman came by and placed a business card on the table, saying that Jeff would be joining us shortly.

This happened about two years after the social media cafe started. At that time, we started seeing more and more people from the corporate world joining in. It started with marketing people, which was fine, but then it expanded to include individuals in formal attire. It no longer felt like it was our kind of crowd.

My friends and I exchanged looks and decided to leave. We simply felt that it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. It had lost its charm.

Today, Birmingham’s social media cafe no longer exists, but that memory remains vivid in my mind. It serves as an example of how not to approach networking.

Events like these were great, and I believe they still have the potential to be great again. Until then, until we create a network of meetups for creative individuals worldwide, how can we effectively network online without resorting to the outdated approach of exchanging business cards and waiting for others to engage with us?

First, let’s define what networking means. In simple terms, it refers to forming connections with like-minded individuals who share common interests, goals, or purposes.

Networking doesn’t necessarily involve handing out business cards, dressing formally, or attending breakfast meetings with professionals from specific industries. It’s about building relationships and collaborating with people who can help us achieve our objectives.

In your case, the objective is likely to improve the world with your art. To go further, it’s about getting more people to appreciate your creations. But let’s dig deeper. What is the purpose of your art? Ultimately, it’s about helping more people discover your work and making a positive impact on the world.

Other individuals in your network likely share the same goal. When we use the term “network,” we can also consider it as a community. These words are interchangeable, but “network” emphasizes a more functional and systematic approach. However, “community” has become somewhat of a buzzword lately.

The idea I propose is to spend a small amount of time connecting with people in your niche or community. Let’s call this “RelOps,” short for relationship operations. Similar concepts exist, such as sales ops and dev ops, which aim to operationalize tasks that may seem softer or lack a clear plan. RelOps enables us to systematize the process of building one-on-one relationships with others, but at scale, making it a habit.

Many people have similar ideas, and they may use different names for them. For now, let’s focus on RelOps. The first step is to identify people in your niche who can be most helpful to you. These could be individuals who can amplify your work, potential fans, or people who genuinely appreciate what you do. They might not be direct subscribers or followers, but they may have access to your target audience or possess valuable knowledge related to your field. It’s beneficial to know them and build relationships with them. We should not underestimate the power of these multipliers, as they can expand not only our reach but also our knowledge, inspiration, and ideas.

Start by finding these individuals and adding value to their lives. Begin by identifying online places where people with similar interests gather. These watering holes could include Reddit, Facebook groups, Quora threads, Twitter, Instagram, or any platform where you can find your target audience. Start by following interesting people in your space and gradually expand your network. Explore relevant hashtags, topics, and recommendations from your apps. Build a network of people who align with your interests.

Some people suggest unfollowing or removing individuals who are not in your network. It’s up to you how you manage your network, and there are various approaches to consider. Find a routine that works for you. For example, when you sit down to watch your favorite TV show, use that as a trigger to start your RelOps activities. Alternatively, if you have kids, after putting them to bed and coming downstairs, make that your cue to start engaging with your network. Make the experience enjoyable by playing your favorite album, snuggling under a cozy blanket, or creating a pleasant environment. After completing your half-hour RelOps session, reward yourself with a glass of wine or any other treat you enjoy.

To summarize, spend 30 minutes a day engaging with your network. Comment on their posts, share their content, ask insightful questions, and help others in the comments section. By regularly adding value and showing genuine interest, you will start to gain recognition and potentially attract followers. Remember, the focus is on building meaningful relationships and adding value to others’ lives. It may not always result in immediate tangible outcomes, but it will nurture you, provide support, and inspire you when you need it.

Let’s put this into practice. Find a consistent time slot for your daily RelOps. Look for triggers in your daily routine, such as when you watch TV or after putting your kids to bed. Make the environment enjoyable and rewarding, and remember to engage with your network by commenting, liking, sharing, and adding value.

By making RelOps a habit, you can create a network of supportive individuals who share your interests and goals. This can lead to new opportunities and collaborations that contribute to your personal and professional growth.

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