It is a good idea to start your networking with those that you know and those that you trust (and those that trust you!). Your address book is an excellent place to start.
If you use a hosted email/address book product, such as GMail, AOL Mail or Yahoo Mail, many of the social networking systems have an auto-import feature to invite those that are not yet members of their network to become your "friend".
If you use an email/address book system based on your computer, you will first need to do some housecleaning. You can then either manually go through and add people to each of your networks (we have a tool to help you - download HERE), or once your address book is updated, you can export your address book to one of the hosted email products so that you may use the auto-import feature.
Whatever your situation, don't attempt to do your updates all in one sitting. Lay out a realistic game plan and work on it for a minimum of 5 minutes per day (if you have a large address book, it may take more than 5 minutes a day, so allocate your time realistically). In any event, it should not take you more than 20 business days. I guarantee that it will feel good when you are done!
Today's five steps in five minutes will move you closer to taking full advantage of the social grid in your networking:
- Book time on your own calendar for the next 20 business days to go through each letter of the alphabet and decide who to add to what network (you can combined some letters such as E-F, I-J, O-P-Q, U-V and X-Y-Z).
- In your Facebook account (and yes, we do recommend that you use Facebook for all of your network needs) set up different lists for each type of relationship (e.g. business, former co-workers, real life friends, prospects, friends of friends, school friends, family, etc.). Go to Friends page and Create New List for each category. Then when you invite people from your cleaned up "A" list tomorrow, you'll be able to classify them!
- If you use Twitter, then consider using a product like Tweetdeck.com to separate the people that you follow into groups. I have a list for my "real friends" and my "real colleagues" versus those that I don't know firsthand.
- Choose at least one business oriented network, such as LinkedIn or Plaxo, particularly if you are in transition. Make sure you list your full work history, particularly in Plaxo, as they will search your past companies automatically for you to see if you want to connect with former colleagues. I list all the companies that I have consulted for as well as those that I worked for (with Consulting Advisor as the title).
- Write down your starting network numbers for each of your networks at the beginning of this project and see how far you advance your network at the end of 20 days!