Networking Is About People

Most people who know me will tell you that I’m fairly shy and that things, like networking or meeting new people, doesn’t really come easily to me.  I’m not crippling shy or anything, but I’m just not one of those people who can join a crowd and within ten minutes I know everyone and we’re BFFs.

To go to a conference, a meetup or a social event with the purpose of making new business acquaintances and building work relationships falls somewhere on my favourite things list below lancing a boil and above listening to Kanye West talk about himself.  In other words, these are not things I enjoy.

With that said, I’ve managed to overcome that and occasionally I will get out there and mingle with people for the expressed purpose of developing my business network.

Before we go on, I’m not some kind of social retard.  I don’t laugh at inappropriate times or drool in public.  I can carry a conversation, I’m told that I’m reasonably witty and I am articulate.  Most of all, when I talk to people I’m someone that is genuinely interested and interesting.  So it’s not that I’m inept in these situations, it’s just that given a choice, I prefer my own company or the company of people who I know already.

For people like me, the internet has been an absolute windfall when it comes to networking for business.  I can get to know people and connect with them in a modality that suits my particular style.  I still get the benefit of all of my positive characteristics without any of the downsides of having to actually go out and meet people in person.

I call that a win-win.

Social media for me has amplified the effect.  I have been able to broaden my circle of contacts and “friends” considerably.  To be boastful for a second, I’m actually pretty good at this because I can be entertaining and at times polarising, attracting people who are more inclined to like me and repelling people who probably aren’t aligned to my way of thinking on a broader scale.

The big thing that I focus on though with networking is that I’m making a connection with another human being.  Put business or personal gain aside, I’m trying to establish a relationship on some level with another person.  They have their own wants, needs, fears and ambitions – I feel it’s important to get to know those things about that person as a key component of networking.

I think that’s been the single greatest part of getting to know new people via social media, especially Facebook for me.  I come across someone, I look at their profile, I browse their timeline, we become “friends” and then over time we start having online exchanges.  For me, I think it’s a great way to build a rapport and “get to know” someone.

Plus I really enjoy the process so that’s a plus.

Unfortunately, some people don’t understand this.  I had an unbelievable occurrence of that this week that I’ll share with you to illustrate how tone deaf some people are when it comes to networking online.

There was a lady who I knew was a “marketer”.  I’d seen her referenced a few times by people that I know, so I looked her up on Facebook, checked out her profile and decided to send her a friend request.  I probably send out five friend requests a month, sometimes less, so I know and remember when I try to become friends on FB with someone.

She never accepted my friend request, but I didn’t really notice that she ignored me because, well, I have a life.  That was about six months ago.

Today I get a private message notification that someone who isn’t my friend has tried to send me a Messenger message.  Low and behold it was this woman.

As I mentioned, I recalled sending her a friend request, so before accepting I went to check out her profile and there was my request to be “friends” unaccepted.  That was unusual because we have plenty of mutual friends on FB and here she is trying to contact me, so why not just accept my Friend Request and send me the PM that way.

Anyway, I accepted the private message on Messenger and her message left me shaking my head.  It read, “Hey Sean, I’m doing some marketing and promotional work for Person X and he mentioned to me that your Casual Marketer audience would be really interested in his upcoming product launch, so I thought I’d reach out to you to say hello and see if we can talk about you promoting this to your audience.”

There was so much wrong with that message that I read it twice in stunned disbelief.

First of all, “Person X” is someone I don’t really know and we have no connection with each other at all.  I had to look him up to even see who he was.  I have no idea how he would know me and certainly wouldn’t know much about my audience.  More to the point, if they did know anything about me, they’d realise I don’t really promote much of anything to my audience.

And secondly, how stupid of this woman to approach me like that?!?  She didn’t treat me like a human being, she treated me as a “list owner”.  She had every opportunity to build a relationship with me in an organic way and chose not to.  Then when she wanted something, she “hit me up” to give her something for someone else that I have no relationship with.

I didn’t even bother to reply to her message, I deleted it and then went to her FB profile and cancelled my unanswered friend request.  She’s just not worth getting to know.

In my mind, networking isn’t about me getting something by leveraging tenuous, loose relationships with people I barely know.  It’s about establishing a rapport and building a certain level of trust with other people – that takes time and effort to do well.  It’s an investment that you make with people that may pay off in due course and probably when you need it the most.

I’ll leave you with my overarching thoughts on this topic: networking is about making human connections, not just a bunch of humans connecting.

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