I don’t think we put enough emphasis on the power of your individual network.

I don’t think we do enough to foster and grow our personal network. First, let’s define a personal network.

A Personal Network is Not…

A personal network is NOT the amount of Twitter and Facebook followers you have. It is also NOT the amount of readers you have on your blog. Yes, that is a network but a personal network has a stronger bond within your life.

A Personal Network is…

Your personal is the close contacts you have made over the years of being in business or networking. They are the people you communicate with on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. They are the people who value your business as much as you do (and vice versa).

We Don’t Fully Understand Networking

I… honestly… don’t believe we know how to fully utilize and develop the differently personalities and people we have met over the years.

Of course, there are people like Dale Carnegie and Keith Ferrazzi (to name a few) who have given us proper manuals on building a network of influential people.

But… it is still hard for us to manage.

I was speaking at Anderson University this week about the value of personal branding and networking as a young professional. I am extremely passionate about this topic and love the idea that you (the professional) has the ability to have a strong mentoring circle around you.

I’m still learning as well.

I wanted to give a few tips that I have learned over the years that has helped me develop a stronger personal network to help me along in business and in life.

1. Personal Note – You would not believe how powerful a hand written note can be for your network. Go to a stationary store and buy personalized envelopes and cards to send to every person you meet with on a daily basis. Hand write and note and drop it in the mail.

2. Use the Crap Out of LinkedIn – LinkedIn will be the more powerful networking tool you will use in the next couple of years. I use LinkedIn constantly to meet and be introduced to people who will strengthen my personal network.

3. Keep a Networking Database – I could be better at this. You could use tools like AddressTwo, FunnelBug, or Salesforce to keep track of your leads and contacts. I use Google Apps / iMail to keep track of information I need to remember about contacts. This information could be as simple as birthdays to spouse’s names. Send notes on milestones.

4. Send Small Gifts for Achievements – I could also be better at this. I learned this from Pete Dunn. I met with Pete this week and he presented me with a congratulatory bottle of wine for my engagement. I am not a client. I am a part of his professional network. It goes a long way when you can remember the small things in life. It is the truth that most people do not.

5. Create a Separate Facebook List for Your Closest Contacts – I created a Facebook list to organize the people in my professional network. This means that I can keep track of their “happenings” in life and respond accordingly. Front of mind is extremely important and extremely valuable.