Is there a right way to network in social media?
I don't know if there is only one right way, but I'm pretty sure there is at least one wrong way. Let me explain.
Over the last week or so I've been following a little dust up over in a LinkedIn group I joined. It taught/reminded me a lot about networking, especially social networking.
Long story short: this LI group is an offshoot of a Twitter hashtag. It was a small group on Twitter but over the last month or so the hashtag has gained in popularity and more and more folks seem to have created a column in their TweetDeck to follow/engage with this little tribe.
So one of the folks creates an LI group that you can ask to join and once inside, there are posts, a discussion where everyone posts their twitter handles (sort of a phone book of the group if you will) and such. All good.
So one of the folks in the group is an active networker... lots of friends on Twitter and tons of contacts on LI. He reaches out to many of the other folks in the LI group and invites them to connect on LI. Most accept but over the last few weeks a few have declined. So he pens a little rant post about how folks shouldn't offer to connect if they aren't going to take the connection when it's asked for.... on and on.
Lots of folks jump on and are either pro/con his rant.
Then the target of his rant comes on and basically says, hey, this isn't fair. The first time you tried to connect with me was via an LI invite. You never have spoken to me on Twitter and when I checked you out you had a ton of contacts on LI and I figured you were just a LinkedIn shark (code for spammer). So I said no. If you want to connect with me on LI then talk to me on Twitter first. In other words, she wanted a certain type of social media networking protocal to be followed before she was going to agree to that first real connection step -- accepting a LinkedIn connection.
Now this post isn't about who was right in this situation... it's about the right way to network in social media.
In the offline world we all make fun of the business card ninjas... you know the ones... Their idea of conference or trade show networking strategy is they can have a card out and in your hand before you have time to ask them for one. We make fun of them because the act of just offering me your card before you or I have even discussed what you do, what I do or how in the heck we might be able to help one another violates a cultural norm. Of course that doesn't stop it from happening, but it does render the approach pretty ineffective.
The same goes for online social networking. If the first time you talk to someone is asking for a permanent connection on LI or FB, then it's like you just walked up and offered them your business card. To many folks that feels icky... even if you think it's perfectly fine and would gladly welcome a reversal of the situation.
And that's the point of this post -- to remind you that it's not about you here. It's about the person you're trying to get to know. Make it all about them. Make a real, genuine effort to get to know them, to help them, to offer them social proof that you're a great person to know and have in their network.
Do that and you won't have to worry about people declining your invitations to connect on LI or become friends on FB.... because you won't be making any invitations... you'll be receiving them.
Or so I think... what about you? What do you think about social networking protocols?
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