The more time I spend networking – on and offline – the more I’m noticing a problem with the basic assumptions some people – including myself – make when looking to build connections. Beyond just who we connect with, there’s a part of the specifuc how that creates issues.
We’re getting worse at introductions, especially self-introduction.
The sheer density of instances where we run into new people online has overtaken realtime introduction so thoroughly that the skills we use are changing in all arenas. When you meet someone new, the practice has been to either be introduced, or to introduce yourself with a 30-second personal sales pitch. Anything to explain who you are, why it’s important you make a connection, and what benefit it might be to the person you’re connecting with.
Now, however, we comment on others’ blogs, reply to them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook out of the blue, and call any reciprocation of these actions a success as an introduction. But we’re wrong in some cases, and unless we learn the cues, we’re going to make idiots of ourselves.
You’re my friend. He’s my friend. He’s not your friend.
It’s easy to forget that many of the most vocal people in a space know each other already. If we miss the key references that tell us that two bloggers – in or out of the same industry – are from the same town, or grew up together, we’re missing out when we see them respond to each other in certain ways on Twitter or in comments. Because of this, even if you know one of these two people, missing the link between your friend and their friends can cause a lot of awkwardness if you approach this third-lever connection from the same angle you approach your own friends.
This, along with a failed introduction practice, can make us come off like idiots.
But now often do we notice, and what affect does our reaction have on our audience when we’re in any of these three positions?
How can we tell when we’re being idiots? Better yet, how can we tell our friends they’re being idiots?
Want an example? Let’s break this down.
We’ll call position one Bill. He’s the popular guy. We’ll call him a marketer. He’s used to audiences.
Position two is Doug. He’s Bill’s friend, perhaps he’s an author. He’s known, for different reasons than Bill is, and is still growing his audience. Hasn’t hit critical mass yet.
Then there’s Steve. He’s the late comer. He’s a marketer like Bill, and has made a connection – maybe a strong one – with Bill. Steve’s a fan of Doug’s work.
Steve makes a joke at Doug’s expense, on the assumption it will go over well, because Bill’s made a similar joke before.
Doug gets pissed. He rants. In public. On Twitter.
Steve’s no longer going to buy Doug’s book. Bill is confused with Doug. Doug is pissed with Bill for not defending him.
Who’s in the right? Is there a right? How can we fix this?
Important questions. I’m glad I’ve never been on any of these three sides – at least not that anyone’s alerted me to. But that can be part of the problem, can’t it? If no one tells anyone they’ve missed a step in the thorough social connection process, those connections can’t be treated like real friendships can.
They remain part of a graph. Inanimate, data-driven, and short lived.