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PostHeaderIcon Is what you are doing really networking?

“Friend me!”

“Bkkper02 would like to add you to their network.”

“CrazySocialGrl101 was sent you a friend request.”

Do these sound familiar? With the rise of online social networks, the term “Networking” has become nebulous. The time of building your business network through hardwork and lots of hand shaking is a thing of the past…. Or is it?

Susan Solovic wrote an article titled “Does Anyone Know What Networking Really Means Anymore?” for Duct Tape Marketing. In the article she addresses many of the common misconceptions about Networking. Her 3 Rules of Networking are an important read for anyone that wants to expand their business or even just their social network.

2 Responses to “Is what you are doing really networking?”

  • Justin says:

    [Continued from above – I promise to seek help for my commenting problem.]

    The one point from the article that I completely refute is that social networking isn't really networking. I would describe myself as having a fairly large "social network." Most of the people in that network I consider friends, a good number I consider close friends, and two I consider "best friends," if that term isn't a bit too junior high. My network also includes a number of clients, many of whom overlap the "friends" category, and an even larger number of business contacts.

    There is one thing common to my relationships with all these people: not one of them has ever met me in person. Four have spoken to me on the phone. My connection to every single one of those people can be traced back to one person – a client – who provided a reason for me to start using social media. I count several members of the OffAssist team, including the Accountant-in-Chief herself, among my friends, and have earned more that a little business by their recommendation, something I appreciate immensely.

    With the possible exception of lucking into a private jet and a lifetime supply of Dramamine, there is absolutely no way I could have met all these people, much less have developed these strong relationships, without social media. If I didn't social network, it's likely I wouldn't have any of these friends, and I certainly wouldn't have the business I've gained (by being me, by the way). I would probably still be in the position I was in before, where I knew none of my coworkers at all, had emailed or IMd with my bosses a grand total of perhaps a dozen times in six months, and was absolutely terrified of the accountant lady who had trouble remembering I existed. I much prefer the situation now.

    Not only do I adamantly hold the position that social media is networking, I would postulate that it can be better networking than in-person attempts. Where can you go, short of giving the State of the Union, where there are 5,000,000+ potential contacts, and one message can reach every single one of them. (I'm aware you're unlikely to reach all five million at once, but you may reach several hundred, even several thousand at once, and that's a lot higher people-to-message ratio than talking to people individually.) I have no doubt in my mind that the "experts" would vehemently insist with their dying breath that no connection made on a social network could ever be, under any circumstances, for any reason, even by direct intervention of God himself, as strong as one made in person, and my only response to that is, "See above."

  • Justin says:

    [I'm not even going to bother trying not to be epic this time – I'm verbose, and that's just me. I will admit that I possibly have a problem, however – Blogger wouldn't accept my comment, it was too long. So it'll be two comments instead.]

    I like social networking – a lot – and I spend a considerable amount of time on it, across a number of networks. I think, having been involved in it for some time, that many of the "experts" who claim to know the way to use social media are too busy tripping over themselves looking for linkbait to actually see that social media isn't a set formula. Social media is a spectrum.

    Anybody who has spent more than 10 minutes on a social networking site – especially Twitter – knows that a lot of people treat it like a commercial rather than a conversation. I don't like this kind of user because I don't gain anything from it – I could have gone to their website if I really wanted to see a stream of self-promotion. That's an area I think the linked article got right – you have to receive as well as send.

    I've commented extensively on this elsewhere, but the core principle is: People like and patronize Mom & Pop businesses (i.e. small businesses) not because they have the best sales or the funniest commercials, but because real people, with real personalities are behind the counter. The same holds true for social media – you'll gain business benefit on a site like Twitter not by spamming the items in your latest sale ad one by one, but by engaging with people just as if they were standing in front of you in your store. (Adjust the illustration as necessary for other businesses – just as if they were in your office for a consultation, for example.)

    My rule, for myself, when social networking is to be me. I'm not there to push Justin the Writer, or Justin the WordPress Guy, or any of the other things I do. I talk about those things, because they're part of me, but they aren't the reason I'm there. Parts of me aren't very businesslike, and a lot of "experts" would probably be aghast at some of the things I say – especially those involving celery. But, that's me. That's who I am. If you met me in person, I'd say the same kind of things, and I'm not going to subjugate my personality – some people may be turned off, but more than a few people who are now good friends (not to mention sources of business) started off saying "Did you just say what I think you said?"

    That isn't to suggest that I think the "just me" formula is The Way To Go™ for everyone – some people just wouldn't be comfortable "putting it all out there" so-to-speak. Being terrified that you're going to say something that costs you business doesn't exactly bode well for being yourself. That doesn't mean, though, that social media has to become a broadcast-outlet only. There is a whole range of options between "let it all hang out and be friends with everybody" and "only put out PR and never talk to anybody." I think that's what's missing from these "expert" articles – an acknowledgement that there is no one way.

    [Continued…]

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