Picture this: You’re in a room with industry players. Perhaps you have a strong relationship with some, and you've met some of the others, but you can only vaguely remember their names. A handful of them seem familiar, but you’re unsure.
In this room, even the strangers have something (or someone) in common with you.
Now, imagine a dashboard on your smartphone that connects all these disparate dots, names them and lets you dive into everything you could know about them.
While we're not there yet, mobile technology is positioned to completely change the way we build and navigate our interpersonal networks.
A Glimpse Into the (Near) Future
Right now, using mobile technology to network is clunky at best.
For example, if I meet someone, I can surreptitiously go to Facebook and check out our mutual friends—though that won’t tell me about their relationships. I can also see what events we’ve RSVP-ed to, but I can’t tell whether we’ll actually attend.
If they’re in my address book, I know we’ve previously met, and I might have noted a bit of outdated information about them. I can Google their name, and again, find some outdated information about them. And if I’m willing to put in the time, I can build and maintain a customer relationship management database and task an assistant with updating it.
If this sounds like a hassle, it is, especially when you consider what's coming down the pike: Soon, we’re going to have the tech to provide rich, real-time displays of our relationships.
In the near future, my device will cross-reference calendars with GPS to verify which events my new connection and I actually attended, where and when we’ve traveled, and where we’ve lived and when.
Apps will highlight overlaps of people, interests and expertise in my network. These apps will automatically gather information about my first and subsequent encounters and use it to provide context for my conversations.
In short: We’re going to know a lot more about the people we meet seamlessly.
Apps You Can Use Now
Until then, there's some applications we can use now.
One of the first companies to tackle mobile networking is Brewster, which links to all your sources of contacts like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and your phone’s address book. It aggregates this information, syncing it across devices.
Brewster taps into networks to enrich the information you already have and reaches into your friends’ profiles to grab pictures to use for caller ID. While there are currently external limitations to what Brewster can know, as more hardware and richer crowdsourced information becomes available, the service will improve.
Another useful app is Humin. It, too, aggregates your contacts, but it uses the information differently. Let’s say you want to reach out to a contact from San Francisco you met last month, but you can’t remember her name. You can search “met last month” or “lives in San Francisco,” and Humin will find her.
It also integrates with your calendar and is location-aware, so it can remind you of key details about the person or suggest contacts to drop in on while you’re visiting certain cities. Like Brewster, Humin is good with the information it can currently access and will improve as new devices and services feed it better information.
Don’t Forget the Basics
As exciting as the new technology is, there are some enduring truths about networking that technology will never be able to supplant. If you want to make the most of your network, adopt these practices now:
- Connect through multiple social platforms. Don’t stop with LinkedIn. The social graph on Facebook and big brand campaigns on Instagram are becoming great business tools.
- Don’t connect just to connect. The raw number of friends you have on Facebook means nothing. It’s the quality of the connections that matters.
- Get offline occasionally. Host a dinner party, and start real conversations. Get to know the facets of people that the Internet can’t portray.
- Leverage your connections. Meeting 100 people this week and doing nothing with those connections is a waste of time. It’s far better to meet 10 people and send actionable follow-up emails to all 10.
Mobile tech is going to make our human networks a lot smarter and more instrumental to our success. Use it, but don’t forget the “human” part. Ultimately, your network can only be as valuable and rewarding as you make yourself to others.
Rameet Chawla is a developer, product specialist and the founder of Fueled, an award winning design and development company based in New York and London. Combining a decade of experience architecting Web and mobile applications with his innate sense of style, Chawla has created apps for a wide-range of industry clients from high-end fashion brands to successful tech startups. Chawla is passionate about building disruptive technology ventures. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.
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