Keep Calm, and Keep Connecting

Keeping up Connections in a world of fear, withdrawal and toilet paper forts.

A friend recently said, “I saw this beautiful woman walking through the city and she was wearing a mask — one of those heavy-duty ones with filter attachments. And I couldn’t help but think… is this fear and withdrawal coming at the cost of connection?”

I mused while I sipped my coffee. I was reflecting on my own experience at the supermarket with my 7-year old daughter watching a group of 15 adults rip wildly at the exterior plastic of a flat pack toilet roll shipment that was just wheeled out onto the supermarket floor. The panicked shop attendant stood back while people elbowed their way to the toilet tissue like there was not a square to spare. My daughter looked up at me, wild-eyed. “Mum, what’s happening? Why are they pushing each other?”

Why, indeed. I loved reading recent insights by Adam Ferrier about #toiletgate. It seems our current state has become stroppy supermarket shoppers to grated greetings; out with the kiss, out with the handshake, in with the hand sanitized fist bump or foot tap.

Now I’m not downgrading the necessity for some caution. Living just a couple of kilometres from the first reported corona virus cases in NSW, I get it, and yet at the same time I ask the question:

What is the cost of withdrawing our hand, instead of reaching out? 

What is lost from isolation and fear when welcome and connection is avoided?

There is no doubt in business there’s much to be missed from a withdrawal of connection. From shared ideas, for inspiration or learning for your work, for clients and future talent attracted.

So how do we keep up connections during this shifting season? Here are a few ideas…

1. Build Your Network, Just Do It Digitally.

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Distance is diminished through the ease of digital channels, and there’s few limits to building strong local and global networks online – and you don’t even need a mask.

For many of us starting out on digital channels, we need to go out and find those people who are more likely to be drawn to our product and/or services, or would operate as meaningful connections.

I suggest looking for connections in four different areas:

  • Potential clients.
  • Industry peers.
  • Industry bodies or media.
  • Local, national and global influencers in your industry.

You’ll see that they’re not all strictly business related – some of them are influencers in your industry or people who are already connected, like media, suppliers or industry partners. The intent is that you start broadly connecting with people who are interested in a similar niche or industry as you are, which allows for a mutual exchange of content and contribution, so you can gather and grow together.

2. Then, Interact With Them…

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Now here lies the gold. The stand out leaders and brands all have a strategy of two-way engagement. Which means interaction. Discussion. Connection.

Broadcast media that is all one-way is a thing of the past. Now brands use all media, with an emphasis on social, to make it interactive and two-way. So once you’ve sought out your new connections online, then you need to have a way of interacting with them.

Gary Vaynerychuk, an American entrepreneur and loud, brash social media expert with a global mass following, summed up this strategy in a recent post he shared on LinkedIn and Instagram: he calls it the $1.80 strategy. He says if you want to grow your audience and find more connections to build relationships with, then you need to talk with them. So his advice was to find 90 people (on whatever platform you’re using – LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) each day and leave your two cents on their content; which means to leave a personal comment on their post. ‘Gary Vee’, as he is known, always advises ‘go big or go home’ – so 90 comments a day will surely get results.

If you’re more like a normal person who can only spare 5-10 minutes a day for this stuff, then just borrow the concept and decide on your own numbers. How about commenting on 5 to 10 people per day? Those thoughtful comments that you are posting will help position you as an expert or someone they like, and it will attract more people your way.

And don’t forget to reply to comments on your own posts. Along with fostering a community-centric attitude, it’s important to listen to people who take the time to find you online, and create conversation.

3. Take the Digital Encounter into the Real World

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If you’re really brave, and don’t want to give up on human interaction altogether. Then I love looking for ideas to cultivate connections face to face. Here are a few ideas.

You could:

·      Host a small breakfast or lunch session.

·      Invite people to a company event.

·      Promote a tour of your premises.

·      Speak at an event and invite people along to experience more of what you offer.

You know, it doesn’t even need to be an event. Let’s say you’re looking to build your career and business through LinkedIn contacts. Why not go beyond the Connect button and send someone a message, and then ask to catch up for coffee? Look for chances to take the online relationship into the real world, where you can discuss each other’s businesses, what you’re learning, what your challenges are and how you can help each other.

This also works on Instagram through the power of direct message (DM). Maybe you have a local business and you’d love to attract people to your store. You could search for people in that location and write them a DM inviting them into your store. To try a free coffee, a consultation or a discounted massage, or whatever it is that you sell. Once they come in and try the product or service they have a great experience and could become a loyal follower, hopefully even bringing their friends.

What could you do?

Hold Back the Cooties, Not the Connections…

Sure, be sensible. If you’ve got cooties, keep them contained. Pack some hand sanitiser for public outings, and even re-think sloppy kisses with friends or family (I wish my 3 year old would heed this rule)… yet don’t give up on Connections altogether.

There’s plenty of options to try – from cultivating connection and interaction through digital channels and exchanging online for real world encounters when it works.

Let’s stay open for business and open for connection.

Cheers to that.

By Kirryn Zerna