Make Your Network Go Viral: Eight Tips for Networking Success

By: Guest | March 7, 2013 | 

Finley, Kate #2Today’s guest post is by Kate Finley.

Growth. Reach. Influence. Connections.

Likes. Views. Followers. Subscribers. Fans. Brand Ambassadors.

These are examples of tools we use to report and measure success for our brands, clients, and bosses.

But what about your own network?

How do you measure your influence? And how can you make your network go viral?

Is it in the numbers?

While the significance or reliability of the numbers is debatable, we can’t completely disregard their ability in helping measure our personal networks.

The dilemma is that it seems some people have more networking success than others. What’s their secret? Where’s the magic formula?

Networking Success

While it’s not magic (thank goodness!) it can be quite magical. You never know who you will meet, who will refer you, introduce you, or employ you. Networking is an integral tool in moving up the proverbial ladder and busting that glass ceiling to oblivion. Networking is an art. How you get there is up to you, the artist, but there are valuable tips and tools you can ues to expedite the process.

How do the pros do it? How do the Richard Bransons, Keith Ferrazzis and Gini Dietrichs seem to influence and grow their networks to viral status? How does the magic happen? Although personal styles vary, here are some key takeaways for creating a valuable, thriving network:

  1. It never hurts to ask. This advice is straight from my mom and it’s GOLD. What separates the network guru from the network failure? Fear of rejection and fear of embarrassment (so basically just fear.) However, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone can tell you no. OK. Move on to the next potential connection. I’m not going to lie to you and say that putting yourself out there isn’t nerve-wracking. The good news is the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become and your personal networking style will take form.
  2. Play nice. I don’t mean fake nice or sugary-sweet nice, but be kind and practice thinking about ways to help other people. According to the Harvard Business Review, snarky is out and sweetness is in. When it comes to networking, nice people finish first. Period. So send that follow-up note after your in-person meeting. Thank that person for the referral. Link to that blog and don’t forget the significance of please and thank you.
  3. It’s not about your network. This may sound counterintuitive at first, but track with me for a minute. Just because you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn or a massive Twitter following doesn’t mean you are connected to the right people. Shift your focus to getting to know people. Know what they are doing, what drives them, and be on the lookout for opportunities to help them. Remember their birthdays and figure out the best way for you to keep in touch to stay front-of-mind.
  4. Extend beyond your own backyard. In this case, the grass can be greener on the other side. We live in a virtual world. Networking in-person isn’t mandatory anymore. I’m not saying you should ditch your local PRSA meeting — a face-to-face is still your ideal scenario. However, it’s not required anymore. Don’t limit yourself. The amazing reality is you can literally meet or develop a relationship with anyone you want. Anyone. You just have to be strategic, creative, and persistent.
  5. Enlist the right tools. Social media has not only created more opportunities to network, it has created a plethora of tools to assist you in the process. Experiment to determine your best approaches and incorporate tools to streamline and optimize your networking efforts. For example, I use Xobni within my Gmail to save time in following my contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. I also immediately send thank you or follow-up emails after meeting someone for the first time.Next, you have to determine when and how you will stay in touch with your contacts. Sending birthday wishes and notes or emails are great ways to do this. I even send birthday gifts (because I LOVE birthdays) to the top contacts within my network.
  6. Do your homework. Make sure you’re networking with the right people. Don’t network with your peers only. Network with influencers and the people who can connect you with other influencers. Create a strategy for following up with contacts and stick to it. Focus on your goal and start chipping away it.
  7. Invest the time. Growing your network takes time and commitment. Find out what events are relevant to your industry locally and nationally and attend them. Who are the key influencers? Who do they look to for advice and insight? Make a plan for how you will expand your network and stick to it. Create smart habits that can be successfully implemented with each new connection you make. Build your network before you need it.

Final advice: Don’t apologize when asking someone for help. That’s part of why we have networks. Instead, say thank you and be sure to return the favor. What goes around comes around and smart networkers know this principle.

What networking tricks are in your toolkit? What advice do you have for creating a ‘viral’ network?

Kate Finley is a media relations expert who specializes in integrating public relations, social media, and marketing for specialty food brands and start-ups. She’s passionate about working with brands that truly help people dream bigger, and live better, healthier lives. During the past year, Kate executed 50+ events and secured more than 1,700 media opportunities for her clients. She’s also a Paleo-eater, singer, aspiring half-marathon runner, and a big fan of Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook.

  • This literally was the perfect thing for me to read today. Thanks @katefinley  🙂

    • @katskrieger Oh yeah? Awesome! Any tips you’d add?

  • Great advice Kate. I’m definitely slightly scared to network sometimes, but have come out of my shell a bit since joining Arment Dietrich. I’ve made so many new online friends that share the same interests as me.

    • @yvettepistorio Being online opens up SO many possibilities. It never ceases to amaze me. I’m definitely an extrovert but I can still feel intimidated sometimes. It’s been especially stretching since starting my own business because I have to pitch media AND new business. Talk about growing fast! It’s remarkable.

  • Woah! I am officially in the big leagues now. Thanks for the opportunity to share here, Spin Sucks team! I hope others share their tips too … I’d love to hear new thoughts on this topic!

    • @kateupdates Kate, I would add a 6b under your second-to-last point: Keep an eye out for the future influencers and connect with them also. By helping emerging networkers grow, you gain an advocate for the long haul. And sometimes they quickly exceed you in influence!

      • @SteveWoodruff EXCELLENT point. That’s exactly what @ginidietrich often does in her #Follow Fridays. Great tip, Steve!

  • @katefinley This was great and just what I needed to hear today. I am actually a very shy person and people who know me will say “NO, she’s NOT” very loudly but what they don’t know if that for years I gave myself a pep talk to go out and talk to SOMEONE, ANYONE at an event and then 1 became 2 and so forth… Now I make it look easy, talking to people and even *gasp* being in front of the camera. But there are times I still give myself that pep talk and say today you are going to make a new friend and you know what I DO!

    • @aimeelwest  Aimee thanks for sharing! I think it’s encouraging to hear from an “introvert” perspective that it is possible to conquer your fear and build your network.

      • belllindsay

        @kateupdates  @aimeelwest I am a TOTAL introvert also – so shy! It’s absolutely terrifies me to go to a function or whatever – but like you Aimee people are always “NO WAY!” when I tell them. It’s because I’ve learned to mask it on the outside – but inside? I’m DYING!!!!

        • @belllindsay  @aimeelwest Don’t you feel proud of yourself after scaring yourself half to death though? 🙂 Or do you feel drained? I always feel energized!

        • belllindsay

          @kateupdates  @aimeelwest I always feel so proud of myself, you’re right. And truly, after 15 minutes at the event it’s all unicorns and rainbows and I’ve met people and I realize how silly it all is. But the lead up…? Holy panic stations.

        • @belllindsay @kateupdates  Oh I know sometimes it amazes me that people can’t see how uncomfortable I am. Once when I was a teenager I overheard someone telling someone else that I was a “snob” because I never talked to people and that was I when I really decided that I needed to do something… because I was just TERRIFIED to talk to people.

        • @belllindsay  @kateupdates Yes that is just how I feel… sometimes though after I’m like “why did I say that!” Or “How could I have told that joke!” I’ve learned to shake that off and figure Oh well it’s me they will either like me or not. Oh and I need about 30min and one good conversation before I feel really comfortable.

      • @kateupdates I’m glad to help and it does get easier as time goes on. There are still times I have to give a pep talk to myself and you know what that’s ok! Good Luck and today make one new friend 🙂

    • @aimeelwest  @katefinley Social networks were MADE for introverts. They allow us to “pre-meet” people and share interests before any type of face-to-face gathering. Building a huge network has been so much easier because digital tools allow a level of cultivation that any introvert can embrace.

      • @SteveWoodruff  @aimeelwest What I love most is that you can take a moment to think about how you’d approach someone or reply because it’s not face-to-face. It can be really great practice for in-person meetings!

        • @kateupdates  @SteveWoodruff so true.. you don’t feel like your meeting a stranger – you have a little knowledge about them.

  • kateupdates

    @lesleywaldsmith Love your new picture!

    • lesleywaldsmith

      @kateupdates Thanks!!

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  • kateupdates

    @kp_kelly Thanks KP! 😉

  • adlandpro

    @jkcallas I like this ( seriously) ty for the share

  • This is super good advice Kate, thanks for taking the time….got me thinking more about the homework and time investment piece.
    I would add “know what you want” because that’s crucial to being able to do the other things you talk about.
    One thing I struggle with (and am all ears if you have advice) is being multidimensional in my online presence/networking. Sometimes I wonder if my varied interests (gender/culture/feminism/rock&roll/journalism/PR/content and the list goes on) makes networking more complicated for me and I wouldn’t just be better using something like Twitter to just express my more professional/work centric self.

    • @JoeCardillo Thanks, Joe! You bring up an interesting point. I’ve actually struggled with that exact issue! I started my online presence with blogging about eating Paleo ( and my Kate Updates brand really took off.
      I grew my Twitter following, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook communities under that brand. At the same time, I really wanted to grow my industry following and I kept trying to please both audiences on Twitter. It wasn’t really working. I also shared occasional industry-specific posts on my personal blog under the topic of, “PR/SM Bites” but it just didn’t mesh.
      Also, it was complicated on Triberr because I kept creating content not directly related to my industry while sharing posts from others that were in my industry. I even had people tell me they read my posts and liked them but didn”t share them on Twitter because their feed was industry specific.
      Eventually, I stopped trying to divide my Twitter following and instead focused mostly on my industry. I created a new Facebook page for my business and started a business blog. Pinterest serves both audiences no problem and Tumblr is just for the food blog.
      Is this the best way to do things? For me, it was necessary. It’s definitely more work because I’ve doubled my communities. However, a MAJOR plus is that my personal blog relates to one of my business focuses (specialty food brands) and the business blog has quickly picked up traffic from prospects and people who had been waiting to return the favor of shared content but I hadn’t had the appropriate material.
      Whew. There’s another blog post!! Hope that helps. Basically, experiment, don’t try to please everyone and go with your gut. For me, that meant 2 blogs, 2 FB pages and honing in on my Twitter account.

      • @kateupdates That is helpful feedback, it sounds like I just need to invest the time in building out separate places for my interests. Some of my hesitation comes from wanting to give people the opp to connect in different ways, maybe I just need to more clearly delineate them, not to hide things but just so that it’s easier for people to see what’s what and connect on the things that are of interest to them.

    • belllindsay

      @JoeCardillo Joe, we sound an awful lot alike in our interests. While Kate, in her GREAT answer to you, has multiple ventures on the go, smartly feeding one off of the other, I’m just – well – a regular Joe! 😉 When I started to build my various profiles out and started meeting people online, I just kept being me. Once, when I was tweeting about good ol’ ’70’s punk, I engaged with another aficionado who also happened to be in my industry. We ended up meeting for coffee and career advice, he helped me with my job hunt and ultimately became a good friend. One of the best compliments I ever received was when I was told that I’m exactly the same offline as I am online (for better or worse! LOL). Ultimately, I am more “professional” if you will when on Twitter, and have a bit more fun on Facebook, but the bottom line is I still chat and share – on both – about my passions as well as my industry. What a great way for people to really get to know the real YOU! 🙂

      • @belllindsay  @JoeCardillo Great advice @belllindsay! I should mention, I still share content that’s not specific to my industry on Twitter. It’s just that I don’t think about it like I used to. I used to be concerned that I’d lose followers or slow down growth if I shared industry specific stuff with my food followers and vise versa. Now, I’m over it. Like Lindsay said, just be yourself and things will come into alignment. You may have to do some tweaking but you’ll get there.

      • That is exactly what I do  @belllindsay and it has worked well for me so far… @JoeCardillo

      • @belllindsay Awesome, that is good to hear and good reinforcement. I love multidimensional people, when I find out someone who does PR is secretly a music fan, it makes me that much more excited about their work. I bet we could talk up a storm about MC5, Stooges, and Ramones =)

        • belllindsay

          @JoeCardillo HA! I quoted MC5 this very morning on a friend’s FB wall. See what I mean??

  • PattiRoseKnight1

    Nice to meet you Kate….play nice is critical!

    • @PattiRoseKnight1 I guess we haven’t officially met yet! I know you’re over there keeping @ginidietrich in line … Nice to meet you 🙂

  • kateupdates

    mdbarber thank you for sharing!

    • mdbarber

      kateupdates great advice, especially for you people.

  • kateupdates

    heyheyman thanks! Networking is SO fun 🙂

    • heyheyman

      kateupdates As DeanElmore says, it’s like flirting. But seriously. I love the power of the web for networking.

      • kateupdates

        heyheyman DeanElmore there are definitely similarities! Lol

  • kateupdates

    AngelaDaffron Thanks for sharing! What’s your #1 networking tip?

    • AngelaDaffron

      kateupdates Making sure you do it! It seems to be what most people forget.

  • kateupdates

    JoelFortner Thanks! Any tips you’d add?

    • JoelFortner

      kateupdates Sure. Keep your network warm. Carve out time to keep it so.

  • kateupdates

    pattiknight Now we know each other! Hooray! 🙂

  • Awesome post Kate! A lot to take away from for the networker in all of us.

  • Pearlied6xicnsg
  • kateupdates

    melissa_agnes Thanks, Melissa! Have a great weekend 🙂

    • melissa_agnes

      kateupdates You too 🙂

    • melissa_agnes

      kateupdates Thanks Kate, you too!

  • M22TTT

    MattDown1 bowden2bowden: Make Your Network Go Viral: Eight Tips for Networking Success vginidietrichich”

  • LisaMylocopos

    kateupdates ginidietrich Hello from Montreal, Kate! Nice to meet you. Great post!

    • kateupdates

      LisaMylocopos thank you and hello! Glad you liked them 🙂 Have a great weekend!

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  • kateupdates

    London4Business thank you for the RT! 🙂

  • kateupdates

    cision thanks Lisa! How’s your week going so far?

    • cision

      kateupdates Hi Kate! It’s going well! Hope yours is too 🙂 As soon as I get coffee today will go from good to great!

  • JaneMcCormick3

    tedcoine ginidietrich I sure hope you give me that in site you have ? #breakingmysilence

  • MrTonyDowling

    kimawhitaker ginidietrich thanks for sharing Kim!

  • ambrking

    Excellent tips. Engage, engage, engage. That is also one way to make your campaign succeed.

  • LukHrd

    RT danielnewmanUV: Make Your Network Go Viral: Eight Tips for Networking Success vginidietrichich

  • As a PR graduate student at Kent State University this is valuable information. Professors stress the importance of networking through all outlets but it seems so overwhelming! It seems like common sense to connect with people but the actual ENGAGING and getting to KNOW them makes all the difference. I find myself struggling on how to make the initial interaction but it seems something as simple as responding to a tweet or even asking a question (because it never hurts) is all it takes. You list this as the first tip. This will help me immensely especially since I’ll be embarking on the oh so wonderful job hunt in the next couple of months. In between classes and thesis research I need to take the plunge and invest the time to grow my personal network. Thanks for the tips!

  • CariCaprio

    I think this is great information. What really hit me what the power of saying thank you and returning the favor later. In my marketing class we have learned the power of our need to reciprocate. My teacher told a story about a man who sent random christmas cards to the same people for multiple years. After a while even though they never knew who he was they sent cards back. Years from then his child needed a place to stay for a college that random person who got all those christmas cards offered him a place to stay! This is a true story! It is amazing to see what people will do if you take the time to do them a favor or vise versa if you say thank you. It is a quirky example of how easy it can be to build your network if you just put yourself out there. Finally I just wanted to comment the importance of your comment about building your network before you actually need it. Now that I am applying for internships you realize that even the kid sitting next to you in class can help get you somewhere through their contacts. You can find connections anywhere! You just have to make the effort.

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  • shanbo1926

    Wow.  I think I lost about ten IQ points just reading your article.  A bunch of useless advice only good for defeating the only real purpose of the phony and shallow activity called networking.  I mean, seriously.  “Make sure you find the right people”.  I’ll do that.  And while I’m at it, i’ll see about finding Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart.  Like Steve Martin’s advice on avoiding taxes on a million dollars.  “Step one – get a million dollars”.  
    Just admit it – networking is all about finding the right ass to kiss.