In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I would share some tips for not frightening the crap out of people you admire by employing scary network or link-building techniques. Here is a ghoulish handful that spring to mind:
- The “I want something” email. So much of networking protocol can be boiled down to high school dating strategies. Would you really approach the cute girl (or guy) in your class without ever having spoken to them before and ask them to the prom? Of course not! So why would you email a complete stranger and ask them to do you a favor before taking the time to get to know them? Don’t kick off your relationship by asking for something.
Better strategy: start the relationship with the “I found something that may be useful to you” email. Much better, and it opens the door to a friendly, mutually-beneficial relationship.
- The “I’ll give you yours if you give me mine” link building strategy. We are walking on major pet peeve territory here, as it makes the hair bristle on the back of my neck when someone writes and says “I came across your blog and thought we might have some mutual goals. I will post your link on my blog if you post mine on yours. Can you tell me when it is done?” OK, I may be paraphrasing here a bit, but I really do get requests like that. I NEVER ask someone to put a link to my blog on their site. I know that someone’s blog is highly personal and they need to make careful choices about who they feature. When you dangle the “I’ll only post yours if you post mine” threat, you put the person in the very awkward position of telling you no, they don’t feel that your blog merits link space on theirs. A frightening proposition for all involved.
Better strategy: Send the “I really love your blog and put a link to it on my site” email. Introduce yourself and let them know what you are up to by including links to your blog or other projects. This takes the pressure off the person to make a decision, and if they like what they see, they will add you! You should be very picky about who you feature on the link section of your blog, so trading links for links never makes sense. You are better than that!
- The “Please blog about my company” email. This is similar to the link request in that the person specifically asks if you would blog about them, or link to a post they have written.
Better solution: Tell the person what you are doing and ask if you could talk to them about it. I recently had a very positive experience with Jeff Landers from Office2Share.com. He is running a Home Office from Hell contest that he thought might interest my readers, and instead of making the request by email, he set up a phone call to talk about it. We talked about what he was hoping to accomplish in his business by running the contest. He was down-to-earth and friendly and made me comfortable with sharing his message. If you have outgrown your home office, check his contest out!
- The “Please blog about the company that pays me to do their PR” email. This is a more recent phenomenon which I have encountered from well-meaning PR people. Without much introduction whatsoever, they say “Could you share this promotion/write about this product? Even if I like what they are doing, if I have no context for judging the reputability of their company and it makes me very uneasy to just pass on a commercial to my advertising-wary readers. I recently blogged about the Sprint fiasco with Joel Spolsky which illustrates this point perfectly.
Better solution? If you are a PR person, cultivate relationships with bloggers before needing something from them. If you are representing a company with useful products and services, nature will take its course, and they will spread the good word, if there is good word to be spread.
- The “Nice to meet you here’s my card and my 30 minute drone about myself” technique at live functions. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that “There is a reason why you have two ears and one mouth – you should listen more!” I heard Jim Collins say in a presentation that he wants to be an interested person, not an interesting person.
Better solution: When you meet someone for the first time, ask them questions! Maintain a spirit of openness and curiosity and don’t worry about dazzling them in the first 5 minutes with your impressive resume, or digging to find out immediately if they are important and can help you. I had a great experience with this recently when I went to an event in New York. I saw a couple that seemed really nice and interesting and I went and introduced myself. We had a very long talk and I asked them all kinds of things about themselves. It wasn’t until we were 45 minutes into the conversation that I found out that he was a producer at MSNBC and she was a news reporter. Useful people to know – but our relationship got off to a great start since we began our conversation with mutual respect and no strings attached.
I wrote about more networking tips in this month’s Get a Life ezine – check it out!
If you are scaring people with in-your-face networking techniques, give yourself a rest. Building a supportive community takes time and is enjoyable. So relax, and leave the frightening antics to your kids tonight.