As has been said by Eric Dewey of eLegal Training, Networking is about knowing more people; connecting is about knowing people more. The distinction is obvious. You know a lot of people professionally and personally, but you actually are connected to only a fraction of those you know.
When you are at a business, social or charitable event, you likely run into many people you know. With many of these people, you will know them “socially” or “professionally”, which is a way of saying you know them, who they are, but are not deeply connected with them and have no investment in their successes or failures.
I think a good example is a small town of say 1,000 people. In a small town, you are likely to know everyone else who lives there. At the same time, you will not be connected with 999 other people. Maybe you are connected with 40-70. This is because connection requires a deeper relationship than simply meeting someone. It involves time, mutual respect, and participation in the relationship by both people to become more than mere acquaintances.
Another good example is LinkedIn. I have approximately 16,000 connections on LinkedIn. But it would be more truthful to say I am networked with approximately 16,000 people on LinkedIn because it is not possible for me to be connected to that many people. If I went through that list, maybe I am actually connected to 100 to 200 of those people, maybe more, but nowhere near 16,000. It’s just not possible.
True connections make up your community. People in communities care about their connections’ success and have a relationship built on mutual respect and trust. Respect and trust have to be earned before someone in your network becomes an actual connection. It takes time and work on the part of both people.
Once you have a connection, you will learn more about each other, be interested in transfer of knowledge and information, and care about each other’s successes (and failures). When you reach this level with another person you add another layer to the community you are building.
Through your networking activities you should have a goal to find people to connect with. By identifying possible connections and forging new relationships you will strengthen the foundation of your community and build the type of community you want to be a part of. These types of mutually beneficial relationships involve real connection and make your life far more interesting.