I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Just as Ringo Starr sang in the famous Beatles song, I wouldn’t have anywhere near the level of success I’ve achieved in my career without my network of contacts and friends. A strong network is one of the most essential tools to make your business work, and below, I’ve compiled the five best ways I’ve made my network operate successfully.

1. Social media is your friend

Social networks are a great way to sustain your already established network. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, for instance, are great venues for staying in touch with your networks. However, they’re not necessarily great venues for building your network—that’s why in-person meetings still exist.

The key to maintaining a network via social media is to participate: people in your network are often curious about your activities, and by posting relevant information often, you can actively keep yourself present to your audience and network. However, don’t forget that the phrase “too much of a good thing” exists for a reason: posting too frequently and over-sharing will often cause people to tune out your posts.

2. Be friendly and professional

Friendliness and professionalism need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve found that by treating business contacts with the warmth and affection that you might reserve for your dearest friends, you are often rewarded with that same respect and affection.

Many of my closest friends began as customers and clients. You might find that you and your new business contact are talking business one moment, and the next, he or she is travelling from Munich, Germany to attend your wedding (this actually happened!).

3. Execute a stellar introduction

It’s no secret that introductions are tricky, but they can be your strongest tools when executed effectively. When introducing two people, I’ve always tried to think about the business needs at hand, and I try to determine ways the two can mutually benefit each other. Most people tend to just introduce the people and then expect them to connect directly. This works occasionally, but not all the time.

I’ve found that an almost foolproof method is to provide a summary of each person’s background and the reason you’re making the introduction. When the introduction is put in context, it allows the two people to join the conversation with ideas of how they might be able to work together, and they have you to thank for that valuable initial meeting.

4. Look for quality, not quantity

All too often I see people attempting to build a large network of contacts by having what I like to call “headcount” contacts: these are people that you’ve met, but who might not necessarily be there for you in a time of need.

Remember, just meeting someone doesn’t mean that they’re going to be responsive to your requests and favors. From my experience, it’s more effective to have a smaller group of contacts that you can guarantee will be responsive to your requests.

To build these groups, think about reciprocity—you should always be on the lookout for ways to be of service to your contacts. If someone needs a hand completing a task, be that hand. If someone needs to get in contact with someone you know, be that link. Karma is a good friend to have on your side when trying to build a strong network.

5. Meet in person

Don’t get me wrong—Twitter and Facebook are great tools for networking, but they’re not the best. In order to build a strong network, there’s no better way than meeting face to face. In-person interactions lead to quality time and help build a foundation of trust and understanding.

This might sound counterintuitive in the age of social media, but a wall post or re-tweet has nothing on a handshake; social networks are a great way to stay in touch with people after you’ve met. People almost always react positively to someone after they have met face-to-face and had a non-digital conversation.

Let your network increase your net worth

Connections are important, but even more essential are quality interactions with those contacts and a mutual support that benefits both parties. As your network starts to grow, keep these five tips in mind. They worked for me, and I can almost guarantee they’ll work for you as well.

Featured photo credit:  icons social network and happy group of finger smileys via Shutterstock

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