This is a mini-series I have been planning for a long time. In fact, Connie and I finished this interview in late October, but a few hang-ups have caused the delay of the series. My hope is that the series will consist of the three interviews with people who I consider to be very talented and genuine connectors, and then a conclusion post pulling out some of the primary themes and prompting the discussion further.
With the current economic conditions and the number of people scrambling to enhance their networking skills, I thought this was the perfect time to stop waiting around for perfection and release this series for the benefit of my readers and those wishing to amplify their networking skills in pursuit of a job or otherwise.
[A HUGE thanks to the interviewees on account of this was a very demanding interview. I am really thankful that they each took a significant amount of time to ensure I had valuable content to share with you all. These interviews will not be short, but they're chocked full of great content. If you insist on getting the golden nuggets, I attempted to highlight some of the parts I thought would be most helpful.]
Techrigy. The first interview featured Connie Bensen. Connie is the community manager for the social media monitoring company, She blogs here, where she she provides resources, mentorship and leadership for those building vibrant communities. A teacher at heart, Connie’s work is recognized as a valuable resource for community managers. She is a phenomenal networker and I hope you’ll find her insight as valuable as I have.
2.) Networking is second-nature for you. Can you explain why this is so. What skills do you possess (or have developed) that aid you in the process?
I love meeting people & interacting. But I also have been analyzing the networking process & documenting it on my blog. There have been definite stages. First I started out meeting people, then I was meeting people of like interests & it just kept growing.I consistently interacted in social networks, and at a certain point there was a tipping point & it didn’t require effort on my part. People were reaching out to me as much as I had been to others. Now I get about 10 new follows on Twitter every day or so & 3-5 on Facebook.
I am sociable by nature & welcome new people into my circle of friends. There are definitely things that I’ve noted about the process on my blog that has helped others. (I am a teacher by nature & people seem to recognize that).
3.) My favorite thing is that you provide immense value to others within your network. How do you achieve this? Why is it important?
Be relevant. It’s all about everyone else. They will in turn make it about you eventually, but until then the focus is on them. It’s taken me many years to become a good listener, but that’s important. Also, I’m very perceptive of people & their feelings. I uplift people as much as I can. And in turn will at times request uplifting back. Deep personal experiences have taught me the depth & frustration of failure & depression. So I consider the human spirit as fragile & worth nurturing. That sounds deep but it represents who I am & why. Joy & contentment aren’t natural states for most people. That too has taken me awhile to find.
4.) What kind of tactical filtering techniques do you employ?
As my network has grown so has the sensory challenges. Periodically I have to readjust my email & IM set up’s. With each job change I’ve been doing so & cleaning up my bookmarks in the folders in Flock. Things that save me:
- Evernote (although that needs major cleaning out at 1009 notes)
- Thunderbird aggregates all my email – I have all addresses flowing into one gmail account.
- Folders & filters save me from drowning
- I have one To Do folder where important things go. I’ve sensed another shift, so I try to answer quick things immediately. In my To Do folder I have a Done folder inside & slide them into that
- Copernic is a desktop search & has saved me many times by finding email
- IM – Digsby aggregates all except Skype (even Facebook!) – I recently just rearranged people so that they are prioritized top down. I have a very bad habit of browsing to see who’s online, then chatting a bit. It may be because I’m remote. I never used to when I was growing my network, but that has happened since after the tipping point.
- Skype is so important to me. In the past 2 months I’ve been connecting with people world wide. The nature of the voice chat is important (again maybe because I work remotely).
Long ago it seemed that most all interactions are scheduled in the following week especially if they’re work related. Periodically I’ll have an impromptu call with a friend but overall, people are very respectful of my time. I like the one week expectation. It really helps me with time management. I also work worldwide which requires flexibility. When I am working with Singapore or Australia there is a 12-13 hr difference which translates into my attending a morning meeting there when it’s evening at my house.
I am a very detail oriented person so yes, I put notes on business cards. And I also ask people to write notes on my business card when I give it to them! When I was at the library in admin I learned early on that my staff didn’t want me giving them a verbal list. They preferred it written down. That has been very important to me. And when one of them started telling me things when I was focused on something else – I would ask them to write it down. Now, if someone puts something important in an IM chat window – I ask them to send me an email.
5.) In terms of practical contact management, how do you keep track of everyone’s contact information?
I’m supposed to be managing my contact info? Thunderbird has amassed a huge number of contacts for me. I have a very good memory & can recognize emails. My contact info is spread amongst my networks in Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter. It probably is fragmented depending on the other person’s choice. I have 1000 friends in Facebook & my Digiscrapping network (my first network) is blurring. But I’m connected more closely with some people & I don’t worry about it.
6.) What channels do you utilize to build strong relationships? Do you prefer using a specific tool–e-mail, twitter, blogging/comments, phone, face-to-face, LinkedIn, etc.?
Each of the following shifts a relationship to a higher level (with the first being the strongest): phone/skype, IM, email, Twitter, Facebook & more recently LinkedIn, blogging/comments
I used all of those for a year & then was able to meet much of my network face-to-face. The relationships were solidly established though.
7.) What are some of the negatives associated with professional networking that you encounter, and how do you deal with and/or overcome them?
The one thing that bothers me now is committing & not being able to follow thru (because I’ve overestimated my time). On the flip side I love being busy, but I’ve started rerouting traffic.
I really try to be a positive person. No one wants to be around someone who complains. When I draw on my network I really try to be conscious of their feedback & either adjust positively or be quiet.
As a connector I believe that I’m respected & not considered too much of a pain.
One thing that’s been hard for me to learn is to make sure I respect people’s time & I worry about that:
email – one of the most important things that Jeremiah Owyang taught me was to write email concisely & w/ bullets. He said he wouldn’t read it otherwise. I think he did the world a favor! That skill of editing my writing has greatly helped my blogging. I can now write, go back thru & turn it into main points.
Chat – it’s important to really be conscious of who you’re pinging, when, etc (I know I’m guilty of irritating people)
Phone – I really try to keep this under control but I love to talk with people. (I can sense that my new work situation is going to teach me to edit our phone time to 20 min’s max) For time management, I schedule most calls in the afternoon because I know my best work time is in the morning.
8.) What are questions someone looking to enhance their networking should ask themselves?
Where am I at in my networking?
What can I do to take it to the next level? (explore beyond the comfort zone whether it’s exploring within your favorite social network – ie: groups in Facebook; questions & groups in LinkedIn, etc; or exploring a new social network & meeting new people)
How can I push myself to grow my network & provide more value to others?
Stay tuned for later this week when I will feature Jeff Widman. Jeff is a guy who has thought more about networking than you have thought about your favorite hobby, and I’m really looking forward to sharing his insights with all of you.
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Networking Experts Interview Series: Connie Bensen –> http://tinyurl.com/8g6jep