There is an age-old conundrum in networking that goes something like this, should I have fewer deeper relationships or many shallower relationships? More connections provide a wider base from which to harvest information, access friends of friends, and of course to sell to (in a marketing sense). Fewer, but deeper connections enable one to build longer-lasting relationships that can be beneficial over a longer period of time.

I was listening to Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast this week (an older episode) and in a different context he referenced a similar conundrum with this phrase, “spend more time connecting dots vs collecting dots”.

Linkedin is our main platform for building our network and I get at least 20+ invites a week from people I don’t know. These people are interested in collecting dots. I don’t know them and the chance of me building a deeper connection is almost zero. The invites feel very transactional. 

I think their thinking probably goes like this:

  • More is always better so focus on quantity,
  • Align myself with people with influence and their influence will waterfall to me,
  • Spray my message everywhere and as broadly as possible and thus increase the chances of something happening for me.

It is hopefully obvious to you that I don’t support this line of thinking. I am not a collector of dots. I rarely if ever accept a Linkedin invite if I don’t know the person. I am not someone who likes to be sold to and neither are you. I am a connector of dots.

The core notion in my daily behavior is that my network is not something that I sell to. My network is something where we have mutual respect for each other. With my network we have or potentially have the opportunity to build a deeper relationship. I trust my network and my network trusts me. We are not a future transaction.

This can only happen if you are a connector of dots and not a collector of dots.

In business building and startup community building I purposely (and loudly) discuss the critical requirement for a healthy expanding network. My discussion points outline two phases to an optimal personal and community network:

  • Initiate Connections. Meet people. Get introduced to people and introduce people to each other. Events are to create connections so the format should support that. Make those new connections easy.
  • Build Meaningful Connections. This is where the gold is. This is where the power of the network lies. It means accepting and following through on introductions. It means showing up as your authentic self (no preening). It means being a little vulnerable so two humans can relate to each other. It means offering to do something for this new connection (make an introduction, review a deck, just listen to their challenges).

You may look at this blog post as supporting you to be both a collector and connector of dots. I think that will fail you. Focus on building meaningful connections, get warm introductions, and ask how you can help them. Then enjoy the benefits that will waterfall to you.