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How to stay connected when your number of connections grows

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People ask me quite often how I can keep up relationships with so many people as my in-person and virtual network grows.

The short answer is: I can’t.

It would be pretty impossible to keep track of 22,000 people on Twitter, or what is now hundreds of students and clients.

I do, however, get great joy from knowing a lot of people. Here are my tips for maximizing the joy in your connections:

10 Ways to Strengthen Connections with Your Network:

  1. Know your wing span.
    I often quote Malcolm Gladwell and The Tipping Point when it comes to his theory of Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen. Connectors, if you remember, LOVE to connect people, and often have very large networks. I am a big Connector, so every time I meet someone new, I think “Cool! Someone else who can be a resource to my community!” If you are not a Connector, you may need to define the maximum size network that feels comfortable for you. The concept of 1,000 true fans is now mainstream — for you, it could be 100.
  2. Change your expectations.
    If you expect that you will remember to write personal birthday cards to every single person in your network, you will be massively stressed out. The nature of social networks is that they are loose, open and instantaneous. Instead of thinking “I must keep tabs on every single thing each person is doing,” you can think “I will make sure to really pay attention to the people who come across me today.” You do not have to have deep, long conversations with everyone every week in order to consider them a friend and advocate.
  3. Choose your inner circle.|
    I have a very small circle of people whom I call very often, or in the case of my best friend Desiree, every day. I make it a priority to stay very connected with their lives, and rely on them to help me with challenges in my own. I call my parents every week. Being thoughtful about who is in this very small circle means I have more energy to reach out and connect with a lot more people from a more grounded perspective.
  4. Love the one you’re with.
    When you have the opportunity to meet someone at a live event, give them your full attention. Plant your feet. Look them in the eyes. Listen to what they are saying. Recently, at the World Domination Summit in Portland, I was in a room with more than 500 people who were all interesting. I wanted to talk with all of them. But since that was not possible, I made sure to really connect with each person I talked to, even if it was for two minutes in the hallway.
  5. Sprinkle in random check-ins.
    I love to jump on a quick skype chat and surprise someone, or pop by a new blog or start up a conversation on Twitter with someone I don’t know well. These are often brief conversations, but they form a strong connection for a few minutes, and often bridge into feeling comfortable with that person when you meet him or her in real life. I also love scanning through my phone contact list and doing random “Hello I miss you” calls when I have a few extra minutes.
  6. Set expectations for communication.
    I send a note to everyone who joins my newsletter asking for their biggest question when starting a business. I use this to gather data about blog posts to write or classes to create. In that note, I say “I may not be able to answer each question individually, but I do host a free call the first Wednesday of the month which you are welcome to join.” Many sign up for the calls, and not only get their questions answered, but hear useful information from others. On my blog, I do not set the expectation that I will respond to every comment, because that would not work with the limited hours I have available to work. I do set the expectation that I will read, and enjoy every one. Expectations give everyone room to breathe.
  7. Put priority on current clients.
    I got a gift of a serious email from a client who felt like I was not checking in enough with what she was up to. Do you know what? She was right. Listening to what she needed from me reminded me that it is a privilege to work 1:1 with people, and I should make adjustments in my work flow to make sure I follow the work of my clients more closely than that of my broader network. I am very appreciative of her feedback, it affected the way I structure the relationship with my clients.
  8. Use technology.
    You can create groups on Twitter (of clients, of friends, of favorite thinkers) so you can have a small and focused window into key segments of your network. If you scan the stream of these special groups, you can respond, Retweet and encourage in an organized manner. You can also set reminders in your calendar at different times of the month to email current clients, or to stop by the blogs of your favorite folks. Knowing that you have a block of time to check up on key networks will stop you from feeling pressured to do so every day.
  9. Connect people with each other.
    Desiree reminded me recently that my main purpose on earth is to create community. I don’t want to create a situation where everyone is lined up trying to talk with me, I want them to talk with each other. So think about the best dinner party host you know — what do they do? They invite great people to the party. They serve great food. They make the environment open and inviting. They introduce people to each other. Then they slip into the kitchen to make more hors d’oeuvres so that everyone can start talking. In our Lift Off community, Charlie, Angela and I are watching the three alumni groups form extra tight bonds, and coach each other on a daily basis, to amazing results. This is the best possible outcome we could hope for.
  10. Get Meta.
    I love meditations and prayers where I visualize sending love to all of the people and creatures on Earth. Feeling the pulse of collective humanity reminds me that we are always connected by virtue of sharing the same planet. We do not have to talk with each person on Earth to know that — we can feel it.

I hope this helps you to feel less overwhelmed and more joyful about your connections. Remember — trust your instinct. If it feels like too many connections, cut back!

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38 Responses to “How to stay connected when your number of connections grows”

  1. Det är says:

    When I study a sites, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I’m sure it was my choice to read, but I really assumed you’ll have something cool to express. All I learn is usually a couple of whining about something which you may solve in case you werent as well busy looking for attention.

    • Pamela says:

      No prob Det, there is a big World Wide Web out there! What kind of information is most useful to you? Maybe I can recommend some sites.

  2. [...] but I wanted to find a way to maintain connections with specific people in my life and work. This post helped out a lot. I also did a mass unfollowing on Twitter a few months ago. Now, I have a smaller number of people I [...]

  3. [...] How to Stay Connected When Your Number of Connections Grow by Pamela Slim (I emailed Pam this question after the World Domination Summit and she wrote this post in response. So many good tips!) [...]

  4. Whew! I needed this. I am a little behind on your blog posts and I’m so glad I took a moment to catch up. I think I have started to do some of these things, but it helps to know that someone with as many connections as you can manage it all and still have such wonderful connection with you kids, friends and family.

  5. Jill Drake says:

    Pam: You might not be able to connect with all 22,000 of us, but you are only one person, and you are giving us more than you know!

    I love how you promote your connections and inner circle on your free monthly call (tip #6) and in your blogs. (BTW, your July 6 call is what got me to this particular post—that’s great inbound marketing).

    Thank you SO MUCH for your book, and all of your insights. Thanks to you and my wonderful inner circle, I am letting go of the corporate ledge after 15 years to start “Forward St. Marketing.” I am also doing more of what I love–blogging to help influence parents to send their kids to summer camp.

    On behalf of your thousands of fans, I say “thanks!”
    Jill

  6. My sister-in-law, who is not active at all in social media, shared this post for me, so this is the first time on your blog – and I immediately feel compelled to comment and thank you for sharing your excellent advice on this subject. As we all get more connected through social media, everybody is going to have to face this issue to a certain degree, sooner or later. I am in a similar position to you where I have way too many connections to keep up with – which is why I especially liked your #6 – Set Expectations. Giving your network a chance to engage with you as a group even if you don’t have the personal time is ideal if you’re time-constrained because you are there for them when they need you, and they know by joining the call they can reach out to you. Sometimes it’s that mutual peace of mind that goes far in maintaining a relationship without having to even chat. Great food for thought.

  7. Kemya Scott says:

    Thanks for this article Pam! As I dig deeper into the social media world and connect globally, I’ve been trying to figure out how to stay in touch with so many people with whom I have connected. As business grows I have to re-evaluate my time committments and make adjustments. The simple fact is that I can’t do it all, but this kind of checklist is already helping me.

  8. [...] to a statistical study saying that we can only have a certain number of “true fans”, to this blog post offering insights on how we can stay connected when our number of connections is growing. It seems [...]

  9. Hey Pam,

    Great list of practical advice to follow! It’s definitely tough to scale at times and connect with everyone. It’s funny, the great think about social media is that it connects us and makes us more accessible, but then that’s also the problem. An expectation of “I want it now” develops. And sometimes, it’s hard to keep up.

    My friend @StaceySoleil does a few of the things you mentioned above exceedingly well! She created a few Facebook Groups to connect people with one another (to network, seek help from one another, etc.). And I always see her connecting other people to one another.

    In the end, the more you make it about the community, connect people to one another, and find ways to manage information (via Lists and the like), the better!

  10. Pamela! Excellent tips! Thanks so much for sharing them. I really appreciate the tip on just “dropping in” for those surprise visits. I love when I get them and I see the results from taking time to engage new folks who may not otherwise be on my radar.

  11. Great post, Pam. Too many people try to connect with others via rubber bands. Something is bound to snap! Instead, we should stay connected with a good yarn. :)

    Seriously, though, we need to keep #4 top of mind, just like Fred Leo said.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  12. hi Pam,
    It’s such a relief to read a post like this; at times I think we all believe that we’re the only ones struggling to navigate + honor our myriad connections.
    I especially appreciate the emphasis on focus: focus on one person. Focus on your current client. Focus on fostering the deep connections that make you who you are.
    To echo Fred Leo’s statement ~ a single connection can change everything.
    Thank you! :)

  13. Hey Pam. You definitely hit on one of my weaknesses and it’s something I’ll try and work on this coming week.

  14. Susan Kuhn says:

    A wonderful, human post about the real purpose of connection, which is authentic relationships, and the sheer delight of feeling part of the whole (#10). Being present in relationship — and not driven by angst about what we are or are not doing — is bliss. This discussion encourages me to just reach out to people I have been out of touch with and be happy with the spark of connection, whatever thay may turn out to be.

    Mazel tov!

  15. [...] How to stay connected when your number of connections grows – practical ways to stay in touch that will not leave you stressed out [...]

  16. Hey Pam,

    Great article! I think you highlight some great practices on how to maintain your network and build relationships online and offline. Do you treat online relationships different from in-person or phone relationships? I’d love to hear how you handle the online contacts vs the in person contacts in this increasingly web-based world.

    I also wanted to share Connected (http://connectedhq.com), a web based online contact manager that makes it easier to manage your network and really implement a regular strategy of staying in touch. Hope you get a chance to check it out!

  17. Michele Robinson says:

    What a great article! I am in the infancy phase of twitter and trying to build my network as I get closer to launching a couple of new inventions. Your article puts everything in perspective in terms of the great magnitude of networking that takes places on Twitter and even Facebook. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you manage the various blogs that you invest your time in. I can’t keep up with all the blogs that I want to connect with and find it difficult to remember all of the blogs ;-) Do you have a best practice in organizing the blogs you frequent…(ex. a bookmark, written note, etc)? How many blogs are you regularly visiting? I don’t want to get caught up in blog overload;-) Already, between twitter, fb, email, linked In…my time to focus on my business at hand is dwindling. Let me know your thoughts.

    • Pamela says:

      Hi Michele!

      I don’t have a regular practice for blogs — I just visit them when I get the ruse. A lot of people use RSS organizers like Google Reader may help. Good luck!

  18. Andy Pels says:

    Oh, now I get it. I’m just part of some system you grind through. Just another part of your reticulated mass of human contacts.
    What the hell – I’ll take it!

    • Pamela says:

      Yes Andy, I don’t actually care about you, I just talk to you on Facebook, visit you in California and write blog posts about you in an elaborate ruse to get you to move next door to me in Phoenix so you can bake me fresh biscotti every day. I think the ruse is working. If I can guilt you into leaving a comment, I am pretty sure I can guilt you into moving. I have to use other tactics on your wife, however, since she is not so easily manipulated.

  19. Excellent, way to put things in perspective. I’m building my business around simple content marketing strategies and this is a great resource for how to manage social media as well as other things. Thank you!

  20. christy says:

    Pam, you are amazing. You really are. Despite the frailties of being human (you are just human, aren’t you? Or is there a cape under the suburban outfit?), you express genuine caring for each of us who crosses your path.

    Do you do it every day?

    NO.

    We are not your actual family. That is reserved for your dear little ones and hubby.

    Still, you make everyone you touch feel special. I’ve felt it. I’ve talked with others who feel it too.

    And that acknowledgement of each of us as special is a kind of silent coaching that can never be paid with money.

    Thank you, Pam, for being exactly who you are.

  21. amazing as usual! i loved the following: “Change your expectations” this is so true and a big reason why so many people stress out and get overwhelmed – i know a few personally who got so frustrated that they stopped socializing. this can be detrimental if not controlled. the list above helps do that tremendously. thank you!

  22. Fred Leo says:

    Amazing tips Pam. At SXSW, I was amazed at how great and natural you were at networking. You are the epitome of a connector.

    One mindset shift that really had a huge impact on me is remembering that your network grows one person at a time. Given the nature of the Internet, we fall into the trap of trying to network with everyone and then practically network with no one. A community is built one member at a time.

    • Pamela says:

      That is such a good point Fred! It is easy to get in the mindset of wanting MORE MORE MORE numbers, instead of really enjoying the connections you make one person at a time.

      It reminds me I should be harassing YOU soon to see what trouble you have been up to. :)

  23. Jane says:

    Great list, I just wrote about Gladwell’s connectors in my book. And, just tweeted this list! Thanks

  24. You better believe I agree with this. Thanks for this sensible, REAL post Pam.

    “Love the One You’re With” is my fav!!

    Yes, friends it IS possible to connect deeply AND grow your circle…authentically.

    Keeping it real….thomas

  25. What great timing, and so useful.

    This is actually a big fear of mine – how will I handle more people in my network? Your advice will come in handy as I grow my business and my reach.

  26. Helen says:

    Pam – you are a mind reader! Either that or you saw my pitiful Tweet of desperation the other day. Either way – you are a star and have provided just what I needed – a sensible, manageable approach to handling staying in touch with people without causing a major stress session. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    • Pamela says:

      So glad it helps Helen! No Tweets are too pitiful — it is not easy operating in this new social media world! :)

  27. Laura Click says:

    Fantastic post, Pam. I think a lot of people are feeling the stress of growing networks. While we want our networks to grow, it also creates added work if you don’t put the proper boundaries in place. I know I’ve talked about this on my blog recently and I’ve read others who have also. Boundaries are infinitely important.

    Yet, as you mentioned, you still need to give fully with the time and resources you have. The point about your client especially rang true with me. We can spend all of this time generating leads and nurturing our network, that we forget to give the most attention to those who are paying us. It seems counter intuitive, but I definitely get that.

    All that said, great post and I appreciate you sharing how it works for you. This is helpful!

  28. Carrie says:

    Oooh, such good advice! Blocking off time to check in on my favourite people’s blogs – a small thing but so big! Thanks, Pam!

  29. Jamie Ridler says:

    Thank you so much for this, Pam. It really helps. In some ways I can see that I’m doing better than I thought I was – and I definitely see some strategies I’m going to start implementing. Who knows who might get a random “I love you” call tonight!!

    Thanks for all you do!

    hugs,
    Jamie

  30. I was *just* talking about this very topic with my number one bud (Point #3), Marissa Bracke today. And this is just the advice I needed. We can’t do it all. It’s okay to set sane boundaries while still honoring others.

    Yes.

    Thank you Pam.

  31. Joshua says:

    A lovely list. Thanks especially for the reminder to change expectations. When I think of contacting an old friend, I sometimes feel the need to send them a long update. Often, a quick hello means just as much.

    Also, birthdays and other life events are great opportunities to say hello. All the better if you can send a note the day before.

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