In 2011, Fortune called Adam Rifkin their best networker. He's not the template for what you'd classically think as a networking god; he's an engineer, he's always wearing an approachable, genuine smile and he's willing to talk to anybody. Networking isn't about slimy over-compliments, drinking heavily or being at every single event. It's about being at the right place (even if that's online) and doing things that aren't always going to get you a direct deal or partnership on the spot.

1. Make your social media you.

Social networking is a world where you'll find yourself worried about exposing too much of yourself, creating a loathsome "personal brand." The truth is that most people are actually imperfect and quite like imperfections in others. The result is that your Twitter account should be as "you" as you want it to be. Dave McClure, founder of accelerator 500 Startups, has a Twitter presence that speaks to over 260,000 people that can most definitely be described as "him." It's a stream of consciousness showing both what he's up to but also his own opinions, spoken in a way that is approachable and humorous and real.

T-Mobile's CEO John Legere has a Twitter account where he's consistently attacking the competition, arguing with reporters and creating a ruckus. That's because that's the type of person he is; he's not hiding behind a shroud of brands. "Social media creates a huge opportunity for any business, if they are smart enough to use it," said Legere in an email interview. "I use it because that is where my customers are, and I care about what they want! I do what I do on social media because that's what T-Mobile is all about--telling it like it is, listening to customers and taking action."

The tech press has increasingly become drawn to Legere's honest personality, to the point that his own blog posts land him press. Few CEOs are willing to publicly, even online, show their real selves, and I say that Legere is proving the point that it's the right thing to do.

Legere distilled the how and why of his constant social presence succinctly. "Cut through the garbage and engage with people directly. Oh, and by the way, it's fun!"

2. Make introductions.

Entrepreneur, sky-diver and ultra-networker Peter Shankman, who is seemingly connected to everyone (and has 166,000 Twitter followers) once told me that one his greatest networking tips was to introduce people to each other. Peter, a man who is unabashedly honest, energetic and outgoing, constantly introduces people he knows would get on well, potentially work together well or simply want to know each other. The result is not only being known as the guy who has "the network," it also means that you're fondly able to recall how people knew each other; you. "Everyone should strive to be the connector," said Shankman. "Being the connector means that you're the one remembered, not simply recalled. You're the one who

people think of when they say "I need something, who do I know who knows everyone?" Being the connector means you're the one who gets the business, you're the one who's "top of mind" when the purchasers start purchasing. And there's no one who doesn't want that."

3. Be really useful (even without an immediate benefit)

My client Jason Lemkin is one of the most popular writers on Quora, a website for answering people's questions about anything. Lemkin consistently writes long-form answers to people's questions, answers that are both detailed and not necessarily always glossy. He votes for and shares other people's posts, and created the Saastr.com (a website for SaaS entrepreneurs) community by regularly answering questions that founders have. This led to the Saastr socials, which started out as a few founders getting together, to sell-out "socials" to an eventual 1000-strong conference. All through Jason sitting with founders (literally and digitally) and giving away his secrets.

4. Don't talk about work.

90% of my meetings with reporters are spent letting them talk about whatever they want to, even if it's totally unrelated. Great networking is not immediately going in for the kill and "getting" something, but creating a relationship that lasts. In my case, I meet a reporter, talk to them for a while, and if they ask me what I'm working on spend as little time as possible discussing it. I like to know more about the person, not because I am thinking "how can I use this person?" but because every great business relationship can be strengthened through actually caring and knowing about the person. Your goal in "networking" oftentimes is that the person will remember you and answer your emails or calls when you make them. A lot of these can be done by just being nice to spend time with.

5. Be yourself, and be blunt.

When I was looking for someone to write a foreword for my book, I decided that I wanted famous comic book writer (author of Transmetropolitan, RED and the book Gun Machine) Warren Ellis to write it. Instead of taking the classical approach of a pandering email begging for help, I simply tweeted at him "Warren, I think you're the only person negative enough to write my PR book foreword. Would you?" He accepted. When I first convinced Ellis Hamburger, then working for Business Insider, to meet with me and chat about a product, I did so by saying something immensely self-loathing/self-deprecating, as I am wont to do. I got a story, and made a solid contact. The world of networking and making contacts is not one conquered through endless self-appreciation but honesty about what you want, and who you are.

Published on: Mar 5, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.