By now, I am sure everyone has seen this report about the LinkedIn exchange that went viral. The story is very similar to others that I hear almost daily these days. It got me thinking about the state of networking in modern times. Is it better or worse with the advent of social media?
First, a long rewind to back when I first started out. I was in my early 20's and knew no one. Not one business connection. So, I started really old school to build my business, which began as a small PR firm with one employee. ME!
I got a directory and mailed (yes, I said MAILED) out letters about me and my company. Hundreds … thousands … all day and all night. After a while, one lead bit and called me. I then took that one intro (thank you John Gawlowski) and built hundreds of relationships from there. Thus, my company began to grow. I would simply call people, go see them, ask them about themselves, listen and try to help them. That’s it. No hard sales. No pitching; just genuine relationship building. It has served me well.
Now, with LinkedIn and other forms of social media, it’s sooo much easier to find good, targeted contacts and connect in seconds. You can literally build a virtual network of thousands of people in no time.
But, are they good connections? Are the relationships real and meaningful? Or, is everyone just playing the numbers game?
Here are a couple of things I have noticed in this age of speed dating for business connections:
- The art of meeting people in person and getting to know them seems like a lost art
- People are way too often taking advantage of these easy-made connections by asking for things and pitching themselves way too soon and without any regard for understanding who the other person is and what makes up their DNA
- It’s way too easy to cross the line and come across as totally obnoxious (i.e. all of the emails I get on LinkedIn trying to sell me things when I have no clue who the person is behind the email curtain)
- Those who do take the time to build a "real" relationship by actually meeting up with someone in person (see me in my early 20's) have a leg up on the others in this sea of network speed dating
I recently had a really good experience meeting with someone who combined both the old and new school ways of networking. I read about a great new real estate tech site called Fundrise. Afterwards, I connected with one of the co-founders, Ben Miller, on LinkedIn. Once we established mutual interests with a few emails, we connected in person for breakfast. It was an amazing meet up where I got to learn a lot about him and his company and on the strength of that exchange, we have already decided to do business together. Thanks Ben!
So, maybe the answer is that social media can be an amazingly efficient way to network, but also like anything else, it can be abused. If networking via social media is not handled with a bit of the flare reminiscent of old school networking, it can be something that actually hurts you instead of helping!