LinkedIn Message Emoticons: Strengthening Connections Or Lowering The Bar?

A few days ago, I noticed that while writing a LinkedIn message to a new connection, something was different.LinkedIn Coffee Stickers

 

I now have the option of adding a variety of emoticons to my messages. I can choose from a series of cartoon coffee cups conveying a variety of emotions, statements, and states of mind. And then there is a series of kitty cat emojis—which this dog lover will never, ever use. I can also select from an assortment of GIFs (from movies like Anchor Man and TV shows like The Office).

 

According to a posting in LinkedIn’s Help Center on September 17, the new features aren’t yet available to all users. LinkedIn will gradually roll the new messaging capabilities to all members.

 

Word of warning if you do have access to the new features: I discovered by clicking on one of the stickers to get a closer look at it, it was sent to the recipient immediately. I found no way to retract it, and therefore found myself apologizing to my connection for sending what was an out-of-character and odd reply. Surely, he would have wondered why on earth I had sent him a cute little sticker depicting a sweaty coffee cup, holding an MP3 player and apparently moving to the music.

 

Now back to the topic at hand…

 

Emoticons? Really, LinkedIn?

I’ve searched the LinkedIn blog for some explanation of why they’ve made this and other changes to their messaging platform. Here’s what I found in a post on September 1:

 

“Starting today, we are rolling out a new messaging experience on LinkedIn that offers an easier and more lightweight way to have professional conversations with your connections. We know many of you have been asking for this ability and we’ve taken a thoughtful approach to reflect the evolving ways professionals are communicating with one another today…”

 

Regarding the stickers, emojis, and GIFs, the post says…

 

“In addition to being able to attach photos and documents to your messages, now you can also add stickers, emojis and GIFs to insert a little extra personality into the conversations you’re having 1:1 or with a group on the new messaging experience.”

 

 

Perception of Professionalism

Aside from the other bugs that people have found when using the updated version of LinkedIn messaging, I have to wonder how “professional” connections will perceive people who actively use these personality enhancers in their messages. I find them a bit juvenile, but I realize my opinion won’t be the same as that of others. Appropriateness and professionalism are in the eye of the beholder.

 

I should fully disclose that I occasionally (OK, regularly) add a traditional smiley face into a message. You know…the colon + dash + right parenthesis,  variety. Yes, I insert an occasional semicolon + dash + right parenthesis, too.

 

According to a study shared on allacademic.com, smiley faces in work-related emails can cause recipients to find the senders more likable and credible.

 

I imagine that might be the case with LinkedIn messages, too. But the question remains whether the premade LinkedIn emoticons will have the same effect as adding emotion the old-fashioned way.

 

I’d love to hear what you think about it. Are these new stickers, emojis, and GIFs a good idea? Or are they lowering the bar for professionalism?

Two LinkedIn Messages That Might Mess Up Your First Impression

Linkedin-Inbox-screenshot

Within the past week, I received two LinkedIn messages that irritated me.

 

Why?

 

They didn’t respect my time.

 

Both senders required me to take time out of my packed schedule to help them accomplish their objectives when they could have easily taken action to accomplish them on their own.

 

I’ve gotten similar sorts of messages from other LinkedIn users in the past. I’m writing about this not to shame you or anyone else who has sent messages like these—I assume most are sent with good intentions. But if you’re sending messages like the two I’ll share in this post, you might not make that all-important best first impression.

 

Two Types Of LinkedIn Messages That Might Be A Turn-Off

 

1. We should connect, so here’s what you need to do to connect with me.

 

It goes something like this:

 

“Hi Dawn, My name is [fill in the blank] and I would like to add you to my LinkedIn Network. We are in the [fill in the blank] group together. Since we are a 2nd or 3rd connection, send me an invitation to connect ([the sender’s email address here]) so that we can stay in touch regarding future opportunities.”

 

The problem with this message: If the sender really wants to stay in touch with me, she could view my LinkedIn profile or my website to find my email address—and she could send me an invitation to connect.

 

Messages like this imply your time is expendable, but the sender’s needs to be protected.

 

The moral of the story: When you want to connect with people on LinkedIn, don’t make them do the work. Ask for an introduction from someone else who is already connected with them or find the information you need to initiate the invitation.

 

2. Repeat what you’ve already shared about yourself in your LinkedIn profile summary.

 

It goes something like this:

 

“Tell me more about what you do.”

 

The problem with this message:

At face value, the message is innocent enough; it’s an effort to engage and interact.

 

BUT, messages like this fail to mention why the sender would like to know more. If the job title and type of work of the sender don’t indicate any type of synergy between us, there doesn’t seem much point in me taking ten minutes out of my day to respond. And even if there is synergy, I’d like to know the reason and purpose for sharing more information about what I do.

 

If, like me, you provide a good amount of detail in your LinkedIn summary and experience fields, you might wonder if the sender looked at your profile at all. This general question would have us rewriting much of what’s already in our LinkedIn profiles. Who has time for that?

 

The moral of the story: Always read someone’s profile first and then ask specific questions about what they do—if you really want to know. And always share why you’re asking for more information. While most professionals are happy to respond to legitimate, purposeful requests for information, most don’t have time to spend 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there to reply to inquiries that have no apparent purpose.

 

Minutes Matter

Although neither of the pet peeves I’ve shared would individually squander hours of your time, minutes matter—and they add up. Just like you and me, our connections and prospective connections are busy professionals. Respecting their time is the first step to making a positive first impression.

 

Have any LinkedIn pet peeves? What types of messages irritate you?

To Follow Or Not On Twitter?

Social Media SerendipityTwitter Follow or not

Talk about fabulous timing.

 

I had a blog post in draft form centered on one reason not to unfollow people (more on that later) on Twitter, when Mike Sansone (founder of Small Biz Tracks and Converstations) published his METHOD: Before Following on Twitter post.

 

I once saw someone, somewhere make a statement to the effect of, “When you follow everyone, you follow no one.”

 

That’s true. When you follow all the people and businesses you encounter on Twitter, you’ll have difficulty actively engaging and building relationships with any of them effectively.

 

That’s why it’s important to at some point become more selective about whom you follow. A method like Mike describes for evaluating accounts before you follow them can nip that problem in the bud.

 

A Twitter Tip To Help Stop The Bleeding

If you’re like me though, some of the damage is already done and you’re following a fair share people and companies that don’t tweet updates that align with the topics you’re interested in or that you’d want to share with your following.

 

Regardless of the reasons you followed them (they’re local peeps, friends of friends, or you simply wanted to be nice), you can get around letting them crowd your feed by using Twitter lists. Put all your important contact and quality content creators onto meaningful lists and using a tool with a dashboard that lets you easily monitor your VIPs’ activity. I use Hootsuite for that purpose and it has worked quite well. I’ve written in more detail about this technique in this past post, so have a look.

 

Following Mike’s advice from the get-go is ideal, and using the trick I just explained after you’ve carefully selected who to follow can empower you even more.

 

Back To “Following” My Original Thought About Unfollowing On Twitter

As Mike explained how to choose whom to follow, I’m going to touch on one reason why you shouldn’t unfollow someone.

 

Don’t unfollow people simply because they haven’t followed you back.

 

Tools like Just UnFollow, Manage Flitter, Tweepi, and others make it easy to identify those people and unfollow them, but by doing that you could be missing out on some really great content and insight

 

I’ve learned a lot and have discovered stellar blog posts to share with my audience from folks whom I follow but who don’t follow me.

 

Before you unfollow people, put your ego and hurt feelings aside and use the same review process that Mike described when deciding about following folks in the first place. If they pass that test, they’re keepers even if you’ve either slid under their radar or they’re not interested in following you at this time.

 

And keep your chin up. Although they might not follow you now, the more you share and engage with their content, the better your chances are of getting that follow in the future.

 

What methods do you use when deciding whom to follow—or not follow—on Twitter?

 

 

Can Mistaken Identity And Party Crashing Work To Your Advantage?

I love when random circumstances transform into something unexpectedly delightful.Party with champagne

Like this story for example:

Joey DiJulio was minding his own business in Seattle when he accidentally got invited via a misguided email to a bachelor party for a guy he doesn’t know. As the email conversation between the bona fide recipients unfolded in Joey’s inbox, he replied to all to explain that he got the email by mistake, but wished them all a great time.

Rather than dismissing him, the groom’s friends invited him to join them in Philadelphia for the party. Joey started a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 for his plane ticket and to help the soon-to-be newlyweds pay for their dream honeymoon to Italy. It appears Joey might not only attend the bachelor party, but also the wedding.

As I write this, Joey’s crowdfunding effort has reached $7,544 in 7 days, and he was on national TV talking with the Fox & Friends folks this morning

Not bad for a case of mistaken identity and a call to action that involves supporting someone’s desire to crash a party.

The moral of the story…hmmm, actually, the way I see it, there are several morals of this story relevant to small business owners, solopreneurs, and every other professional out there:

  • Without agenda, be kind and respectful to everyone. You never know where it will take you.
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You’ll be surprised at how many people will rally behind you in support of your efforts.
  • Savor serendipity and the opportunities it can bring to you and others.

Thanks for reading! Are we connected on social media yet? I’ve made it easy to do with those little buttons on my website. Hint, hint!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

To Renew Or Not To Renew? Pros And Cons Of A Chamber of Commerce Membership

Not all solopreneurs I know enjoy networking. I do. But that doesn’t mean I—and folks with that same love of mixing and mingling—shouldn’t be selective Boy thinkingabout which networking groups we join and maintain membership in.

 

I’m a member of several networking groups, including the larger regional chamber of commerce in our county. I’ve been a part of that one for the past five years, ever since I started my freelance writing business.

 

With my membership due to expire November 30, I have a decision to make: Do I renew?

 

I’ve only attended approximately 4 events (business mixers) throughout my past year of membership.

A few years ago, when I had fewer clients and had more time, I was able to attend nearly every monthly business mixer and several education sessions. These days, time is limited and I can’t as easily work it into my schedule.

 

I know other solopreneurs and small business owners face the same dilemma as their chamber memberships near their annual expiration.

 

So, I’m going to think out loud here to weigh the pros and cons. You might be pondering some of the same as your networking memberships near their expiration dates.

 

Cons Of Renewing My Chamber Membership

 

Cost of A Chamber Membership

Membership has price tag of over $400. That’s not an insignificant investment for most solopreneurs, and it’s what kept many of my peers from joining in the past. The mixers I attended were “free” (a.k.a. included in the cost of membership). Do that math and it equates to $100+ per event. Most other events have an additional fee—and that can add up. If I don’t renew, I’ll reduce my networking membership costs to about $150 per year.

 

Schedule Conflicts

Beyond the mixers, most other events are typically scheduled during times of the day when I need to be working on projects for my clients. Yes, I could do my client work in the evening, but I have a family who I’d prefer not to ignore.

 

Getting Lost In The Shuffle

The regional chamber is big. So big that many mixers draw hundreds of attendees. That’s overwhelming—and distracting—when you want to get to really know people rather than just superficially make their acquaintance.

 

My Target Market Isn’t Specifically Local

My target audience is one that extends nationally. That said, I do collaborate with a good number of local clients who I love working with. But I’ve become connected with most of them through LinkedIn and referrals rather than through my direct affiliation with the chamber.

 

Pros Of Renewing My Chamber Membership

 

A Listing in the Chamber Directory

If I were to not renew my membership, I would lose that point of presence.

 

Credibility

Particularly when talking with prospects in the local area, mentioning you belong to the chamber holds some professional clout. It demonstrates involvement in the community and projects a degree of trustworthiness.

 

Show of Support to the Local Business Community

Even though my target audience extends beyond local prospects, I feel strongly about helping local businesses succeed. The chamber provides advocacy, educational programs, networking opportunities and other programs to help entrepreneurs in my area.

 

Chamber’s LinkedIn Group

While most known for face-to-face networking opportunities, the chamber also has a relatively active LinkedIn group where, as a member, I’m at liberty to post updates and interact with other chamber members. I’ve found it effective for increasing the visibility of my business and personal brand. If I don’t renew, that platform of awareness will go away.

 

To Renew Or Not To Renew? My Decision.

After thinking it through, I’ve decided to renew. Why? I realize the effort I put into it directly correlates to what I get out of it. That’s true of many networking group opportunities, but especially with chambers of commerce. The more present you are, the more trust you build in the local community. And even if, like me, you work with a lot of clients outside of the area, you can generate referrals. Many local professionals have connections not only in their immediate geographic region but also in other counties, states, and internationally. Exposure and awareness matter as a solopreneur. Four hundred dollars may seem like a lot of cash for a solopreneur to dish out for a membership, but one decent project accomplishes a full ROI. All things considered, the investment seems a reasonable price to pay for expanding my reach. It will be up to me to make the best use of my dollars.

 

Your turn! What factors influence your decision to join—or not join—chambers of commerce and other networking groups?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Four Tips For Making Sure Your Visit To A Biz Expo Isn’t a Waste Of Time

If you’re a B2B solopreneur or small business owner looking to expand your services or products in your local market, networking at business expos can Business Woman Handshakeboost your visibility. Expos put you face to face with leaders in the business community. They can lead to new opportunities and give you a platform for strengthening existing relationships.

 

While exhibiting at an expo obviously generates exposure, it also costs money. Sometimes a good bit of it. But you don’t have to rent a space and man a booth for hours and hours to benefit from an expo. By simply making the rounds as an expo visitor, you can reap the rewards.

 

So why do many people think they’re a waste of their time? Many view expos as a place to pick up free pens, toss their names into fishbowls to enter drawings, and, if they’re lucky, bump into a few familiar faces in the process.

 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little preparation and light planning, you can make your rounds on the expo floor count.

 

How Can You Make The Most Of Your Time At A Biz Expo?

 

Bring your best business cards.

A lot of expos ask for a biz card as your “admission fee,” so you don’t want to forget yours. As expo season rolls around, the time is right for reviewing and—if needed—updating your business cards. Have they got an old logo? Has your email changed?

I must admit I’ve messed up on this matter this year. With the Lancaster Chamber Business Expo just two days away, I still have my old business cards, which don’t display my logo. Yep. My bad! What I’m doing in the interest of time is getting some fast and furious one-sided cards printed at Staples so at least my logo and essentials (website, phone number, email address, and social media channels) are front and center. Thankfully, I’ve got some time before the next local expo to get my act together and secure two-sided cards with more meat to them.

Bring a buddy.

Personally, I enjoy mixing, mingling, and chatting on the expo floor. Some people find the experience painful. And even though I love it, it’s still more pleasant when I’ve got someone to walk around with. I know one of my clients isn’t particularly fond of these types of events, so for the past two years, I’ve invited him to meet me at the Lancaster expo. Besides making it more tolerable for him, it’s more fun for me and gives me an opportunity to show my appreciation of working with him.

Know the lay of the land.Expo floor plan

When you enter a sea of 200+ exhibitors showcasing their wares, you can get paralyzed by not knowing where to begin. Rather than wandering aimlessly, take some time a few days before the event to print a map of the expo floor plan. (Most organizers will have that available on their websites, along with a list of the exhibitors.) After reviewing the list of exhibitors and their booth numbers, either highlight or circle the booths of exhibitors you want to introduce yourself to or visit with. Assuming you won’t have hours on end to spend at the event, this will ensure you make the most of your time and ensure you don’t miss any VIPs.

Make connections ahead of time.

After you’ve made note of the particular exhibitors you want to spend some time with, proactively connect with them on social media before the Making expo connections on social (screen shot)event. The people manning the booths could be the same people manning their social media accounts. Regardless, if you’ve never introduced yourself before, it provides a warm introduction and demonstrates interest when you can say, “Nice to meet you, I really enjoy your company updates on Facebook and Twitter.”

Here’s how I go about the logistics of making those connections:

  1. I go to the organizer’s website to view the online list of exhibitors.
  2. I open a browser tab (see image) for each of my social networks (in my case, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook).
  3. For each company I want to connect with, I search in each network/tab to see if their company has a presence.
  4. If they do, I follow, circle, or like their page.

Yes, this can take some time depending how many exhibitors you want to connect with, but you don’t have to do it all in one fell swoop. Carve out 10 or 15 minutes over a few days and you’ll be in good shape.

 

Like them or loathe them, visiting local expos holds the potential to raise awareness of your offerings, build your network, and open the door to referrals and new business. They are what you make of them, so make them matter.

 

Over to you! How do you get the most from your time spent at the business expos near you?

 

By Dawn Mentzer (a.k.a. The Insatiable Solopreneur™)

Handshake image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is the Lure of the Cool Kids’ Table Distracting Your Small Biz Online?

Last week, my just-turned-teen daughter came home from school elated because one of the “populars” said “Hi” to her. This caught me off guard because she Student texting on mobile phonehas plenty of friends and what seems to be a healthy level of self-confidence. Yet getting acknowledged by a particular popular girl was an incredibly self-affirming experience for her.

 

Being the inquisitive (nosy) parent that I am, I pressed her for more information. Why was this “Hi” so much more significant than a “Hi” from anyone in her circle of friends?

 

“Mom, I’ve been dying to be friends with this girl! She’s so cool!”

 

Oh boy.

 

But I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. I see plenty of people (solopereneurs, small business owners, marketers, and others) far beyond their teen years wanting to get noticed by the populars online.

 

I imagine you’ve seen it, too. Any given post by a social media heavyweight will get hundreds of likes and comments from adoring fans. And some of those fans practically fall all over themselves to get attention and gain affirmation that their wit and wisdom have made it on the radar.

 

Who can really blame them? With no shortage of articles out there about the importance of engaging influencers, folks get caught up in trying to get noticed.

 

But the reality is that crowded rooms are easy to get lost in.

 

Stars in your eyes? Look past them.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t interact with highly influential people online, but don’t get obsessed with it. People vying to get into their inner circles inundate the really big name folks on the web.

 

Good luck rising above the noise.

 

Don’t discount the potential of sharing content with (and by) other like-minded people who may not have the expansive following the big guns have, but who will find value in your content and appreciate your goodwill on the web. Engage them with a consistent mix of informative, interesting, and entertaining content and show them you’re present by responding to comments and reciprocating on their pages. You’ll get more likes, shares, and comments from people with a modest yet active following than by doing the equivalent of jumping up and down and frantically waving your arms in efforts to catch the eye of someone with a following in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands.

 

Most definitely don’t ignore the people on social media who have earned their status as a popular by consistently delivering great content. But don’t expend all of your time and energy trying to get invited to sit at the cool kids’ table.

 

I’m always open to alternate points of view. If you’ve had success getting noticed by influencers and it has helped your business, leave a comment and share your story.

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You Can’t Please Everyone: How to Handle Argumentative Comments on Social Media

If you blog for your business and occasionally write posts sharing your thoughts and opinions on particular topics, you’llYin Yang: How to deal with opposite views on social media find not everyone will agree with your point of view. In fact, you might find some contrary, angry or defensive comments either directly on your blog or in social media comments. If you’re someone who likes to be liked by everyone (like I do), that can gnaw at you. Getting nods all around, however, is a wishy-washy objective for your social media efforts. Stimulating thoughtful discussion and getting readers engaged enough to share their alternate views will make you far more memorable.

But counter-points and disagreements in comments can escalate to heated arguments if you’re not careful about how you handle them. How did Aretha Franklin put it?

Ah yes, R – E – S – P – E – C – T.

Steps for responding respectfully to people who disagree with you on social media:

  1. Say “Thank you” – Immediately say “thank you” to them for sharing their thoughts and perspective.
  2. Acknowledge – Validate they have a right to share their views and that you welcome them. Express your thoughts on the topic are your thoughts…and that you respect – and are interested in – others’ perspectives.
  3. Explain – If the discussion evolves into a debate, ask them to share their reasons for why they see a topic a certain way and likewise share your reasons for your perspective. Often, you’ll find some small plot of common ground after you understand the background and experiences that have shaped your views.
  4. Agree to disagree – While your discussion online won’t likely have you directly seeing eye to eye, you’ll at least have (hopefully!) earned each other’s respect. Share that while you don’t have the same perspective, you accept and respect their alternate view.
  5. Say “Thank you” (Again!) – End the discussion on a note of thanks. Even though they haven’t been your “yes man,” they’ve taken the time and energy to engage in conversation with you. That’s what we all want from our efforts on social media, right?

By demonstrating respect for comments – even those with an argumentative tone – you can facilitate a thoughtful discussion and keep the peace.  By getting defensive and shooting off a judgmental response, you could end up in an all out online brawl. I’ve seen it happen (I’ll bet you have, too), and it isn’t pretty.

Thank. Acknowledge. Explain. Agree to disagree. And thank again.

Please note these steps are meant for reasonable people…not for those who in any way threaten you, use offensive language, or are otherwise combative. Each social network has its own policies and procedures for reporting that type of thing, so refer to that information if ever you encounter those types of interactions.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of Exsodus / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Get a Grip on Google Plus and Twitter: It’s All in the Lists

(Actually, in the case of Google+, it’s in the circles, but that didn’t sound nearly as poetic in the title.)Woman with tennis racket

Google+ and Twitter have become my favorite social networks for business. Like all online social media, they require time and ongoing effort to share content and interact with others. It’s not easy. But it can be easier if you have a system in place to streamline your activities.

Finding a way to effectively organize my G+ connections and Twitter followers has helped me immensely both in keeping tabs on and interacting with important contacts and in finding really good content worthy of sharing with the people who are following me. For both Google+ and Twitter, I use a similar approach for organizing the people and brands I’m following on those networks.

Two Google+ Circles and Twitter Lists that will simplify and streamline your social media efforts

VIPs

Create this list/circle and include all the connections you consider “VIPs.” Include clients, hot prospects, sources of referrals, etc.  It’s a list where you can place anyone you want to keep close tabs on and nurture relationships with. Keep the list relatively short (I’d recommend no more than 30 people or brands at any given time). On Twitter mark the list as private, so no one but you knows who is included (why risk hurting someone’s feelings or burn bridges when people discover they’re not on it!). Your VIPs may or may not be good sources of content that’s relevant to your audience. If not, it’s OK. This list is meant to ensure you stay on top of what these individuals are posting so you can show support, offer input, and give virtual high fives  to build goodwill.

Content Masters

It’s time consuming and frustrating to scroll through random posts in your newsfeed trying to pick out those that are meaningful to you and your followers. Instead, create a “Content Masters” list/circle and include people and brands who consistently post quality content that’s relevant to your audience and that you can glean knowledge and helpful tips from.  Make this list your “go to” place when you’re deciding what to post on your networks. It cuts through the noise, saves time,  and helps you stay on top of the content that matters most to you. As with the VIPs, you might also consider making this list a private one on Twitter to avoid hurt and hard feelings.

Related tips for managing your Google+ circles and Twitter lists…

  • Whenever following anyone new, take the extra 30 seconds it takes to view their posts/tweets to see if they’ll make good VIPs or Content Masters.
  • These lists are meant to be fluid. As relationships evolve and strategies change, remove people from your lists and add different people as you see fit.
  • For people you might not need to keep quite as close to the vest as VIPs and Content Masters, but who you don’t want to lose in the noise of the general newsfeed, create other lists/circles. Do it sparingly though. Only create a list or circle if you really intend to monitor and interact with the activity there. Otherwise, why bother?

 

While there’s no right or wrong way to manage your Google+ and Twitter connections, there are tips and tricks that can help you minimize your efforts and help you get a better return on them.  It usually takes a healthy dose of trial and error before finding a good system, so don’t get discouraged or throw in the towel. Keep trying until you discover an approach that works best for you.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Building Professional Connections: No Riding of Coattails Allowed!

“We need to get together and discuss how I can get involved in your networking circle.”

Awhile back, someone posted this comment on one of my social media platforms in response to a photo that I shared of me with some colleagues at a networking event. While some people might have meant that in jest. I know this person did not.

There’s so much wrong with his statement…I’d call it a request, but really it wasn’t. He didn’t ask. He told me what we need to do so he can further his business in the local community.

Connecting in the local professional community – No riding of coattails allowed!

When building a network of professional connections to grow a business, there is no “we” where responsibility for reaching out and nurturing relationships is concerned. Yes, it’s fine to leverage existing connections and occasionally ask for introductions to people who you might have some synergy with.  (As professionals, it’s professional courtesy – and the right thing to do – to graciously introduce connections whenever appropriate), but it’s wrong to expect others to do all the work for you.  To anyone who hasn’t shown the initiative or effort to make inroads on their own in their community…get off our coattails!

There are no shortcuts for building meaningful business relationships.

Building relationships and awareness in the local community takes hard work, continuous effort, and a consistent presence. Sometimes you even have to dole out some cash to join groups and pay registration fees for events. Why would you share the fruits of your investment with anyone who is obviously looking for free ride and has nothing to offer in reciprocation?

While helping others professionally is admirable and often mutually beneficial, giving a pass to people who are too lazy to build relationships on their own could damage your reputation rather than strengthen it. If they’re that self-focused with you, you can bet they’ll be equally as self-serving with the people you connect them with. By introducing them, you might be misunderstood as endorsing them. And that could put your professional credibility at risk.

Back to the incident that prompted me to write this post…

I did respond graciously to his request. I didn’t offer to sit down to talk with him, but I did share what I believe are some helpful bits of insight to get him thinking about  how he might start to forge relationships on his own…

  • I listed the networking organizations  in our area for which I’ve paid to be member so he can consider them for his own business development – and so he would understand that networks don’t grow by accident. You have to put yourself where the people you want to connect with are.
  • I explained how important my ongoing and consistent use of social media has been for nurturing relationships and expanding my network.
  • I told  him there’s no secret formula. It takes getting involved and putting in time and effort. You get out of it what you put into it.

Hopefully it has made him think about what he (not we) needs to do to start making connections and building trust within the community.

If I seem a bit territorial about my network, it’s because I am. You should be, too. We’ve worked hard to start – and maintain- our networks of connections. Why should we feel obligated to help someone with a strong sense of entitlement but a weak desire to pay their dues? I’ll always be willing to give other professionals a hand up…but a handout is out of the question.

 

By Dawn Mentzer – Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post.