For any of my readers younger than the age of about 50, there used to be a thing called a “Rolodex.” It was just a little desktop object that conveniently held the phone numbers of your contacts, but the word is still a nice shorthand for “the list of people you have contact info for.”
I once worked with someone with very few actual skills, who was nonetheless one of the most valuable people at our organization because he had a billion-dollar Rolodex. He was in fundraising and having a contact list whose combined net worth was over a billion dollars was a pretty fantastic value-add in that kind of role.
That’s an extreme example, but the point is that contacts are good – and most people don’t cultivate them. See, a “contact” is more than just a person you met once and have a business card for. This is the internet age; I can look up anybody’s phone number, but that doesn’t mean they’ll answer for me. A contact is someone who will specifically take my call if I make it.
So step 1 is meeting them, sure. But steps 2 through 20 are the important ones. Those are the steps where you follow up, provide occasional value, remember little details, and other things like that. It’s more than just adding them on social media; it’s actually giving them a reason to remember you.
Add people to LinkedIn, absolutely. But don’t forget that adding people to a professional networking site does nothing if you don’t actually network. If you’re not chatting, that Rolodex isn’t worth squat, no matter who’s in it.