5 Networking Mistakes
Twitter, blogs, Facebook have made it easier than ever before to network with people who could help you gain valuable advice, insight and connections. But just because it’s easy to access people, doesn’t mean you should. Or at least it doesn’t mean you should just reach out without at least a nod to some good old fashioned etiquette rules of the pre 2.0 era.
I am fortunate to meet a lot of interesting people and to be part of a lot of industry events, panels etc. I also genuinely like to connect with people.
But lately I feel like the boundaries of “professional” contact are getting a bit blurry. I’m not suggesting we go back to an era of formal notes asking for appointments delivered by butlers on silver platters. but I do think a little more etiquette would go a long way. Mostly, I think good (vs. bad) networking etiquette is a question of respect. I don’t mean genuflecting or addressing someone formally (although “oh Holy Brand Queen” or “Empress of Blogging” would definitely get my attention). I mean respecting someone’s time.
At a networking event or conference don’t monopolize someone. Introduce yourself, state your comment/question or desire for a follow up, get your response and then respectfully move on. If there is a line of people behind you waiting to talk to the speaker, acknowledge this and wrap up.
When requesting an exploratory meeting, make it clear in your email exactly what you are looking for. I get a fair amount of vague requests asking for “guidance on my career” or “input on my brand”. You will get a higher likelihood of response if you are specific. e.g. “I was wondering if you could give me some advice on switching from an agency position in packaged goods to client side in the service industry”.
Also do your homework before the meeting and have some ideas on the subject you are looking to get reactions to. And when you say you only need 30 minutes of someone’s time, then mean it. Whether in person or on the phone, you should be organized enough to get what you need in 30 minutes. I think a mark of respect is also showing that you value someone’s time by making sure they get something out of it.
Follow up a conversation with a link to an article or a video on a subject that you discussed. Offer to make introductions to people they may find interesting/useful. Leave comments on their blog or share it with others. Twitter about your encounter and help them build their personal brand (something even the most well-known people still constantly work at).
Don’t assume because your need is pressing that they should drop everything to answer it. Don’t send an email asking for a response tomorrow. Do make it easy to respond by clearly stating what you are looking for and giving them the option to first respond by email. Also if you are looking for a face to face meeting a good strategy is to say that you are going to be in their neighborhood at a certain time and date and give a few options.
Don’t “friend” a business connection on Facebook unless they suggest it or you have clearly made a personal connection during your meeting. Try Linked In. It’s more appropriate and allows you to easily keep in touch. Everyone may seem one click a way. But remember we all have busy lives (personal and otherwise) and chances are you’re not the only person reaching out to someone.
Reach out with respect, and your response rate will be higher. That’s my point of view. What’s your twist? What rules of social etiquette do you follow?