1. Don’t be afraid to say no
Not all networking opportunities are made equal. Be prepared to say no, especially if the favor they ask is time consuming.
I generally have a five minute rule. Most people contact me to seek recommendations. I give a couple of names and then mention my consulting services. I will make an exception if the person is a super influencer or if I’m asking for a favor in return.
2. Refer to your online presence in offlline marketing material
Some people get so obsessed with creating a prominent social media message that they forget to share the word via traditional marketing channels.
I recently went to a tweetup where my friend, @akavirtualpa, was wearing a t-shirt with her twitterhandle on it. This helped her get noticed as you didn’t have to squint at her name tag to realize who she was.
Created a branded name tag
Most of the name tags I receive when I got to tweetups and conferences are really boring. You can really stand out by having a custom, branded badge with your main social media photo and also any relevant handles.
Decorate the back of your laptop
I have an acer laptop but it has an apple sticker on it. It gets a few laughs and the occasional snarky comment.
You can use the laptop to advertise your business or social media presence. You can print stickers or even get an engraver.
Most people use twitter, but it depends on what you do. If you are a photographer, linking to your flickr profile may be more rewarding
An alternate idea is to create separate business cards for when you meet with people heavily involved in the social media community. They will appreciate having multiple ways to connect with you – they can then research the other information once you’ve connected.
3. Being pitched is part of the job
Don’t get annoyed that people are pitching you incorrectly and are treating you as a number. They see you as a hub and that’s a good thing. This means that your success is evident to people outside of your circle.
Yes, they are screwing it up. They make you want to throw things and cut off all social contact you have with them. Don’t. Sometimes, they see their pitch as doing you a favour. Don’t get upset. Focus on educating them.
Instead, create a page teaching people how they can get your attention. Make it known what you will, and will not, tolerate. Make this page very clear and link to it from as many places as possible including the contact page.
If they really want your attention – or your help – they will follow those rules.
4. D´t suck up to A-Listers for favours
There are a number of people that are doing interesting things that I refuse to put on a list post or recommend. Why? Because they are a fame whore.
There is a concept called fake familiarity. This is when people will attempt to find a common interest so that you´ll be in a positive frame of mind when they make their pitch. Sadly, this is done so often that people are put off as soon as they see such behaviour.
In addition to it being off-putting, it is often not necessary. Influencers really appreciate it when you are direct and just explain why your email is relevant to them and their work. I wrote about this further in my blog post at The Village Agency.
5. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone.
I get a lot of awesome people reaching out to me. People I idolize. People that are rising stars and would be awesome to partner with. People who could teach me a lot about my work.
You know what? I rarely follow up with these requests. I’ll be friendly, and useful, but I’ll stay within the boundaries I’ve set for myself. I’ll tell people that they can get in touch, but will tell them the best way to get my attention.
It’s easy to get caught up in social media and feel like you have to take advantage of all these potential friendships. But if you try to be everyones best friend, you end up giving away all of you. This can make you popular but it won’t always lead to income.
Follow your gut instinct. Remember: Being friendly doesn’t mean you have to be friends.
6. You don’t have to be in constant contact to be close
I have a lot of business contacts that I consider close friends. I may only talk to some via email a couple of times a year. It doesn’t stop me feeling affection towards them.
Most people are busy and have a lot of commitments. They are able to keep tabs on their friends in their downtime via social media. This removes the need to constantly touch base.
7. You don’t need a blog to kick arse online.
Many people put off networking because they don’t have a main hub for their online content. There is so much emphasis placed on blogs and sites that people are afraid that they are afraid of leveraging social media and email to connect.
I got a lot of attention before I had a proper digital presence. So did Scott McIntyre. He got the attention of Liz Strauss, Skellie Wag, Mary Jaksch, myself, and others before he had developed his home base. This was because he focused on helping others as much as possible. You can read more about it via his post at A List Blogging Bootcamps.
While it is fine to connect just to make friends and learn, it does help if you have a loose strategy behind your networking efforts. The strategy can be as complex or as simple as you like. Having some kind of goal will help you figure out the type of people you want to connect with.
8. You don’t need a hook from the start
One of the questions I get asked the most is about how I figured out the hook for my blog. The honest answer is that I spent two years flailing around until I found my online identity and explored what it meant to be a ‘connector.’
You are allowed to let your site revolve. You are allowed to nurture relationships during this process. Many successful start-ups refined their vision over a long period of time, testing and refining ideas along the way.
Not having a hook shouldn’t keep you from networking and connecting with people.
A lot of my friends will only touch base when there is something work related I should know about, and that’s fine. It shows we respect each others time.
I find that it’s easier to keep a distance during periods of intensive work, and then reach out during their downtime (conferences, meetups etc.) I
9You can dislike someone’s actions but still like the person
This is something that you may not think it is relevant – until a persons actions make you question your friendship.
I did a post where I was asking for support by discounting my services. Someone I valued highly called this begging and openly criticized me. He disliked my approach and I disliked the way he condemned it.
I ended up changing the post as a result of the conversation. I was hurt and really disliked him at that moment. Yet we still value each other’s opinions.
I’ll regularly look at stuff my friends are doing and make negative judgments. It doesn’t mean I like them any less. And, if something does end up being a mistake I can learn from it along with my friends.
Figuring this out has made connecting online so much easier.
10 People will always talk about you.
Following on from the previous tip is that regardless of what you do, you will be the subject of conversation. In his post on Alex Shalman, Glen Allsopp said that what people say about you is none of your business. “People will talk about you unfavorably whether you are there to witness it or not.”
Regardless of what you do, there are some people that will object. They might direct there criticism at you. They may discuss it in other mediums. If you plan to become successful, you will have to learn how to deal with criticism. Additionally, how you respond to criticism will affect how future contacts interact with you.
11. Allow yourself to be used
Some people are out to use you. This is annoying, and unethical, but sometimes you should just let yourself be used. It sounds contradictory – but you take advantage while you are being taken advantage. Seriously.
So, someone may be using your services for free when you know that they can afford it. But, the skills learned and inside information gleaned may me more than worth the time spent. Someone may be using you to leverage off your brand but that’s ok, they may have a perspective that is unique and could help you stay ahead.
Think of it
It can be really easy to let your morals stand in the way and claim that you won’t be used. What if doing so put you at a disadvantage?
12. Gratitude makes you memorable
Sometimes, your digital presence can be really impersonal. It can feel like everyone wants a piece of you and that can place a lot of pressure on someone. Being gracious towards someone is a definite way to stand out in your connecting efforts. It always makes me smile when someone tells me how I’ve helped them, and it makes me want to do something to thank them.
There are a number of ways to stand out when showing gratitude:
Dedicate a blog post to them. Talking about why they have had a profound effect on you stands out a lot more than an impersonal blog post.
Send a personalized email. Emphasis that you don’t need a response, but you just wanted to tell them how their work resonated with you.
13. Don’t be transparent because its trendy. They are because it´s right
I get a lot of comments thanking me for my honesty. I know that this leads to more people: more buyers, readers, fans and friends. I get a lot of email and comments thanking me for talking about the realities involved in my work.
It is easy to think that to be successful, you just have to be honest. This won’t work. People will see through you and you’ll alienate the people you are trying to attract.
Write from the heart because it feels right. Write because you want to tell a story and empower people to take action. Reveal parts of yourself because some reason beyond the needs of yourself and your audience. People will resonate with this and stick around to see more.
If your heartfelt confession is followed by a sales pitch (often known as ´storyselling´), then I lose interest. It´s not cool.
14. People will make instant judgements on how you treat them
I have a reputation for connection. I don’t do it for professional gain. I mostly do it to give me a sense of purpose and because not many people do what I do. I do secretly filter people out though.
The people I bend over backwards to help are those that took me seriously when I was ill and broke. There was a core groupe of people that saw my potential and provided support to nurture that. These were busy people so often it was little more than an em/DM to keep me on the right track.