High Touch vs Low Touch Networking
This past weekend, I was reminded of the power of high touch networking. That is, the benefits of spending quality, face-to-face time with people in your network. In this case, I did a ride share with a networking friend of mine to a conference. We had hours in the car together and caught up on each other’s lives. We brainstormed new ideas and worked on solving personal, professional and world problems. It was an enriching experience and one that I was grateful for.
It got me thinking that perhaps I should be doing more of this kind of high touch networking with other people in my circle of influence. But time and money are limiting factors. I only can go to so many conferences and events. You might feel the same frustration.
Although I write and speak a lot about networking, it is not my full time job. However networking has certainly proven to be a valuable strategy to growing my business and career. It also has enriched my life. Many of the people that started out as networking connections have become my personal friends.
It is not uncommon to have business networking relationships cross over into friendship after a period of time. But you have to stay in touch over time for any of these wonderful professional and personal benefits to occur.
How do you stay in touch?
Staying in touch has become a lot easier these days with the onset of social media and online social networking. You can ping people and get their attention using instant messaging. You can send quick text messages using clever netlingo like LOL and BG. You can poke people and post public messages on their wall using Facebook. You can send individual messages to professional friends using LinkedIn.
It’s amazing, really. You can connect without ever having to physically connect with people. Social networking is virtually free and a very convenient way to stay in touch with any and all people in your personal and professional network.
Is social online networking enough to keep relationships alive?
Social online networking saves time, saves gas, and saves money. You don’t even have to get dressed or get out of your comfort zone to connect with people. It’s great and I couldn’t live without it, but I must remind you that social online networking is low-touch networking. You still need to mix in high touch networking activities to ensure that your networking relationships are robust and real.
Copywriter and blogger Lynda Goldman suggested that there is a primal link between personal connection and trust:
“In the age of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and e-mail, we are all constantly connected. So why do we still travel halfway across the country or the world to meet people? It’s because the personal connection is still so much more powerful than a text message or even a voice on a webinar. We need to see, hear, touch (and even smell) the people we do business with. It’s a little like animals, who sniff each other out when they meet to see if they can trust each other.”
- Lynda Goldman, excerpt from her article Do’s and Don’ts of High Touch Networking in a High-Tech World, published on her blog, September 15, 2011.
What constitutes low touch and high touch networking?
People who network only from the comfort of their computers are missing out on what real human interaction can do for professional relationships. Text messaging, social media and email may feel more effective because of the immediacy of the communication delivery and the potential to reach and connect with more people, more often. But it doesn’t qualify as high touch networking in my book.
• If you can’t shake their hand or give them a hug, look them in the eye and read their body language, then it is not high touch networking.
• If it is delivered through mass media, lacks personalization and took you a very short time to create and deliver it, then it is not high touch networking.
High touch networking activities allow you to bring more of you to the networking experience. The goal is to present as fully as possible in order to enrich the relationship – be it personal or professional.
Here are a few specific examples of networking activities that might fall into the high, medium and low touch categories:
1. High touch networking includes activities such as: having a meal with someone, attending a networking event, going golfing or some other business leisure activity, networking coffee/tea, seeing people at a networking event, attending a charity event together, and ridesharing to an event.
3. Low touch networking includes activities such as: sending an email, posting on their Facebook page, re-tweeting, email marketing, posting LinkedIn updates, sending LinkedIn invitations, and texting people.
Which is better: high touch or low touch networking?
It’s a trick question, because you need to employ both strategies.
Building and maintaining a robust and growing professional network will require you to pay attention to both quality and quantity of contacts, as well as quality of engagement and frequency of communication.
You will want to utilize both high touch and low touch networking strategies to manage your professional network effectively over time. It’s not either/or, but rather a mix of the two strategies that will serve you best.
Who needs to hear from you?
The 1979 television commercial from AT&T suggested that we:
“Reach out, reach out and touch someone. Reach out, call up and just say hi. Don’t let those new friends get away. They are waiting to hear from you.”
So who needs to hear from you? Why not write a letter, make a phone call, and/or schedule a get-together with them? Keep your network alive and growing by staying in touch more regularly. You would be wise to use both high touch and low touch networking strategies to grow your circle of influence.
About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business and co-founder of PowerUpYourProfessionalImage.com. In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations and more effective networking and connecting. To learn more about Kathy, visit her web site MarketingMotivator.net. To receive free weekly networking tips, sign up at NetworkingAhead.com.