We discover the importance of having "contacts" (i.e., a person with whom you are familiar, or can contact if necessary) before joining the workforce or shortly after launching our professional careers. These contacts are people with whom we have some rapport.
This rapport, which can be established instantly, is fostered by good communications and shared commonality that breeds comfort. These are people with whom we see things eye to eye. Generally speaking, good communication = good rapport. It facilitates a feeling of connectedness. Ideally, we want to have good rapport with every contact; however, that good rapport should not be confused with having a relationship. It's just a good start.
Unlike rapport, relationships have to be developed, and take time to build. They are predicated on the investment of time or shared values and/or experiences. From these experiences deeper knowledge and appreciation of someone is gained. Relationships are both coveted and guarded. Contacts are freely dispensed and shared.
The differences don't stop there. That's actually where they begin. A key differentiator is value. Contacts are valuable, but relationships are invaluable. Those who not only know one's value, but can articulate one's value proposition to others for our own benefit creates equity in the relationship that - in the best of cases - is reciprocal.
When networking it's important to understand the importance of building rapport with peers and industry associates, but it's equally important to recognize that exchanging contact information does not constitute a relationship, but is merely the first step of many in the relationship development process.
Remember that rapport is a plant freshly potted with shallow roots that are not firmly entrenched. Relationships are a plant plotted a long time ago, with deep roots that have been nurtured. It's the nurturing that requires the time and effort for the rewards to blossom.