A friend uses this saying quite a bit. And he’s not kidding.
When I try to explain the difference between “social media” an “social networking,” I usually go this direction:
Social Media: Connecting information from people, places and things with technology to tell stories online.
Social Networking: Connecting people through technology to form real relationships, online and off.
The differences between the two might seem subtle, but, if you focus on the “Social Networking” definition, you’ll see why we want to focus on the title – “Practice Safe Networking” and get you to think differently about how you approach social networking.
How to Practice Safe Networking
The same friend I referenced above knows my strengths and weaknesses. Knows what I’m up to professionally. And knows how I can help him.
Whether he keeps a file on me or not is a whole other story – but, suffice it to say, if I ask him for a contact, it’s for a very specific reason.
Sometimes, it’s because I know he worked at a certain company. Other times, it’s because I see someone listed on his LinkedIn contacts.
“Hey, I’d like to connect with Mary Jones in HR at XYZ Corp.” That is not likely to get a positive response from him – nor would the same request get a positive response from me if you asked me. (Are we connected on LinkedIn yet? If not, this could make a heck of a lot more sense if we did connect.)
Tip #1: Always Have a Specific Reason for the Connection
“Hey, I’ve got a question about Mary Jones in HR at XYZ Corp. You two are connected on LinkedIn. Do you know her very well? I have a friend who is running a startup and they are looking for someone to head up HR, with a Comp and Benefits focus. From Mary’s bio, it looks like she’s got the right skillset. Do you think you could connect us via email?”
Odds of a connection are 50/50. Since this person knows me pretty well and I know him pretty well, the BS meter is always going off. If either of us detects it, then we’ll say so. “Great potential, but I know her well enough to know that if it’s not a pretty interesting company, then she won’t be interested.” OR “Our paths hardly crossed; I heard great things about her, but an intro from me would be pointless.”
Tip #2: It’s Not About Me. It’s About You.
When I reconnected with a former colleague recently, he asked tons of questions about what I was up to. Then, he started revisiting his own databank of people to connect me with – focusing on those that could help with my current endeavors.
Not-so-subtle hint: This is one of my current endeavors. 12 Minute Marketing. Now, back to regular programming.
This was a nice gesture on his part. And, maybe, down the road, I’ll be able to help him by making a connection that can help him with his current endeavors.
Tip #3: Pick Up The Phone.
Can’t stress this enough. Call. On the Phone.
Normally, the amount of time it takes you to craft the right email is 10 times what it would take you to find the phone number and reconnect.
Tip #4: Karma Bank.
Keep paying it and paying it. BUT to the extent that you’re not mucking up the Mojo you’ll need for our fifth and final tip.
Tip #5: Your Ace Connections are an Extension of You.
This is why I “get” LinkedIn, I don’t “get” Hashable, and I still love doing the Social Networking thing the old fashioned way.
If I send my friend the banker in the direction of another friend who is running a startup, I only do this because my friend the banker is someone I would have a beer with, and whose bank is someone I have done business with. And because the startup executive is someone I trust, and would also have a beer with.
(Beer doesn’t have to be the common thread. Still…)
Even the seemingly random “hey, you should talk to this guy” requests you might get are an extension of the person sending the request. Why should I talk to this guy?
Beyond that, requests to talk to one of your guys can come back to bite you. Wasting the time of one of your ace contacts is a surefire way to see that ace contact start recommending you less and less.