In this article we are going to talk about networking. Specifically we want to look at how to “ping” people. I believe the term “ping” comes from excellent book Never Eat Alone. A ping is defined as a small action that keep the relationship with someone in your network alive. First lets talk about the benefits of pinging your network of contacts and then we’ll look at how to actually do it.

Benefits of Pinging

Our brains organize information in a very efficient way. Imagine that our memories are a bunch of envelopes in a pile. The size of the envelope corresponds to the emotion associated with that memory. So you can easily retrieve the memory of your first kiss no matter how long it has been since you last thought abut it because it is in a very large envelope. On the other hand, you may not be able to remember your college dorm room number after a decade because it is in a much smaller envelope.

Every time a memory is accessed, that envelope gets put on the top of the pile. So it isn’t too hard to remember your departing gate number for 15 minutes after looking it up on the screen in the airport, but you may have a very difficult time remembering your parking space number after returning from a two week trip. (There is an organization system like this called the Noguchi filing system.)

When it comes to your network of contacts, you want your name to be easy to remember. Since it is easiest to remember things that are emotional or recent you have two options to make your name memorable. Saving someone’s life is going to be a very emotional experience, but obviously it isn’t very practical to try to save the life or have your life saved by everyone in your address book. There are other ways of creating emotional experiences, but they either don’t scale, have inappropriate side effects, have significant risk, or will make you well remembered, but not in a positive way.

So that leaves us with trying to be memorable by being recent. So how do we do this?

How to Ping

You “ping” people by making some type of contact with them. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a four hour conversation–just a brief “how are you doing” or “I was thinking about you today.” It can be as simple as sending them a text message saying happy birthday or calling them up when you have a layover in their city just to say you were in town for 15 minutes, thought about them and wanted to know how they were doing.

Here are some tips for pinging your contacts:

  • Send a newspaper/magazine clipping on topics they find interesting with a handwritten note.
  • Call them up on their birthday and sing happy birthday to them.
  • Send them a text message when their favorite team wins or loses.
  • Send birthday cards.
  • Leave them a voice mail with a bit of info you learned that they might be interested in knowing.
  • Occasionally send an email with a link to something they would find useful.
  • If they blog, leave a message on their website.
  • Write a recommendation for them on Linked In.
  • Comment on their posts on G+, Twitter, Facebook or wherever they interact online.
  • Send them something through the mail. It could be a matchbox version of a car you know they want/have/had or a photograph of their hometown.

If you look back through that list, you’ll notice that the recurring theme is to do something that shows you know who they are and what they like. You are trying to do simple things that show you know their birthday, know their interests, read their blog, etc. Pinging is a matter of doing those little things that say “you are important.” Obviously you don’t want to be annoying, but making a conscious effort to ping all of your contacts 3 to 10 times a year can go a long ways toward making sure that you stay in people’s memory and keep your marketability high.