You already know that networking is a huge key to success when it comes to career growth or building any business, but chances are you don’t love to do it. Instead of meeting a bunch of strangers or recent acquaintances for an endless series of coffee dates, you might prefer resorting to your typical means of daily communication–texting–if only that were appropriate and effective for professional purposes. Well actually, it can be.
Last summer I released a book called Txt Me (646) 759-1837, about how technology is changing modern life–and yes, you can actually text me at that number. I’m also an investor in messaging technology and really believe that this is the next big area brands should be focused on.
Watch: Bonin Bough Shares His Tips On Turning Texting Into A Networking Secret Weapon
But I also believe that it’s an underused and undervalued tool for climbing the corporate ladder, forging your own career path–and, yes, good old-fashioned networking. Chances are you don’t always have your business cards handy every time you meet somebody you’d like to connect with later, but you’ve definitely got your smartphone handy. So why not use it? As someone who uses texting more than most to network, these are a few of my top dos and don’ts for making this work for you.
DON’T TAKE A BUSINESS CARD
Instead, hand that person your phone and have them type in their number. It’s efficient, it’s simple, and it’s the fastest way to get save information. And yes, you should have them input their own information. This is the easiest way to cut out the possibility of inaccuracy. You don’t want to misspell their name or punch in their number wrong. Plus they can add additional information, such as their email or any other info you might need later on.
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DO WRITE YOUR FIRST TEXT AS A BULLETED CONVERSATION
When you’re ready to reach back out to your new contact by text, your first message shouldn’t be a meandering recap of the event where you first traded contact info. It should be a clear, bulleted list that includes:
- Your name
- Where you met
- What you discussed
- The circumstances and context for the meeting
By providing a bulleted list, even if that person can’t get back to you quickly, they’ll have all the information they need to remember you, in a format that’s a lot easier to digest visually from a smartphone screen than a big block of text might be.
DON’T WAIT TO RESPOND
Messaging is all about getting straight to the point. Your first instinct might be to parlay the text thread you’ve just started into another format, like a buttoned-up email chain that lets you elaborate in more detail. But that defeats the whole purpose of starting out texting in the first place. Emails sometimes take a long while to answer, but texts usually don’t. So once your new networking contact texts you back for the first time, respond immediately to keep the ball rolling.
DO BE DIRECT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
Messaging is not formal, so use that to your advantage. Tell people exactly what you want and why you’re interested in connecting with them–don’t beat around the bush. The last thing you want is for your text to read like an email or an essay.
DON’T HESITATE TO GROUP TEXT
So you met a few people, or are connecting a friend to someone in your own network. Don’t underestimate the group text. It’s a great way to connect with multiple people and keep everybody on the same page, as well as to follow up on the new relationships you established by connecting people.
DO EASE UP ON RESPONSE TIMES AFTER FIRST MAKING CONTACT
I’ve found that the etiquette around texting in a professional setting differs from social engagement. You should be quick to establish contact, but after you’ve done that, you don’t need to be incredibly timely in your responses. The main thing isn’t timeliness but conciseness: Instead of immediate replies, just make sure your messages are short and to the point.
DON’T IGNORE WORKING HOURS
Just like with phone calls, be sure to respect working hours with messaging, too. You would (hopefully) never make a work-related call at 11 p.m. So don’t text then, either. And if you know the person you’re messaging is overseas or traveling, make sure you respect their time zone’s working hours as best you can.
DO TRY OUT TOOLS TO MANAGE YOUR CONVERSATIONS
Applications like iMessage, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Facebook Messenger are the obvious basic platforms for exchanging information with new people quickly and easily. So feel free to experiment. Maybe you keep your personal texting on iMessage and your professional conversations on WhatsApp. Or maybe you pull in more sophisticated platforms to keep everything straight.
Once my book came out, I was a little nervous about being able to manage all my incoming messages, so I tried out two platforms, SuperPhone and later Zingle, which let you create metadata around your contact lists. This way you can search for all the publicists, for instance, or attorneys you know. Zingle also reminds me whenever I haven’t been in touch with somebody for a few weeks (or any time window I’ve chosen), then automatically texts them with one of a few messages I’ve set up in advance.
If this sounds next-level to you, don’t worry. Just start small: Scrap your business cards and invite your new contacts to trade text messages with you instead, then build up from there. Chances are you’ll find it comes more naturally than you expect.
Bonin Bough is the CEO of Bonin Ventures, an investment fund with a focus on messaging technology, and the author ofTxt Me (646) 759-1837. Previously, Bonin was chief media and e-commerce officer at Mondelez International and one of the foremost-awarded marketing executives in his field. Watch episodes of Bonin’s “The B-Suite” series on Facebook or follow him onTwitter at @boughb.
FastCompany.com | 10.03.17 | CAREER EVOLUTION