Social Networking: Stop being polite & start being real

December 15, 2009 at 8:07 pm 4 comments

This post is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic two-month journey of over 50 guest posts. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

I owe a lot to Social Media and the blogging world. I’ve been around the block, but I’m still a pretty big noob to the “networking” side of Social Media. You learn a lot in a very short period of time about the right (and wrong) ways to approach the world of Social Media. And through my “trial by fire” I’ve been labeled as annoying and brilliant – and admittedly, both are extremely valid labels to slap on me.

In short, to get ahead, you have to stick your neck out, eavesdrop on other conversations, and then interrupt them. It’s not about being polite and saying “excuse me” – your focus has to be to listen and follow conversations that relate to you, and then know when to add your voice into the mix.

Seriously – the best way for you to make new friends is to force it. Much of what you know about conversation etiquette can be thrown out the window. Listening is the first step, but the best engagers know WHEN to step in and take action; when to reach out, say hello, and start a conversation.

If you’re out there looking for a job, maybe approaching graduation, moving to a new city – spend some time searching. Pay attention to the right people, and then don’t be bashful when it comes to stepping in and introducing yourself. ADD VALUE to the conversation – don’t jump in front of someone just to say, “Hey! Look at me!” There’s a fine line (that is often blurred) between shameless self promotion and a genuine helpful approach.

The best friendships and connections are made when one person adds value to another’s online experience. If you’re in the field of PR – do some Twitter Searches for PR professionals in your area to find – become a resource yourself and share relevant links and articles. Don’t let your age, experience or title hold you back. The great thing about the internet is that you don’t have to be an expert – titles don’t mean squat – it’s your level of engagement, interactivity, and personality that will have you standing out from the rest.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn as a job seeker. Coming from someone who recently moved to a new city, LinkedIn was extremely valuable in being that “first point of contact” – allowing me to reach out and say hello in an un-intrusive way. Browse LinkedIn for companies in your area and send a member of their staff a personal message. Don’t ask for an interview, instead, position yourself as wanting to “learn more about the company”. Try to set up a time to grab coffee. Even if an interview isn’t in the cards, putting yourself in front of the right people can be the foot in the door you need to take the next step.

Social Media is a tool – a valuable one to establish your presence within your community. Don’t be bashful when it comes to meeting new people, and don’t let Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn replace the importance of a face-to-face meeting. Your online persona should be more or less a gateway to establishing “real” offline connections.

How are you using Social Media to spark conversations, find jobs, and network with people in the area?

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. derekdevries  |  December 16, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    The “Real World” analogy is a good illustration of the difference between being assertive and being aggressive – while civility is always important, it’s important not to let oneself be relegated to silence by being overly-deferent.

    The point about eavesdropping is critical. A great body of research on human behavior stresses the point that it’s critically important to observe and learn about the people you intend to interact with before being assertive and jumping into the conversation. A textbook I just finished evaluating (Stewart, 2009. Bridges Not Walls) had some great examples from a study by Thomas Hatch (based on evaluating how children interact):

    “The two cardinal sins that almost always lead to rejection are trying to take the lead too soon and being out of synch with the frame of reference. [...] popular children spend time observing
    the group to understand what’s going on before entering in, and then do something that shows they accept it; they wait to have their status in the group confirmed before taking initiative in suggesting what the group should do.”

    Very instructive.

    I hadn’t realized Linkedin was working as the primary point of contact that resulted in a job. If anyone has a story about an experience like that I’d be interested in hearing about it. Granted I haven’t sought employment myself in some time, but everything I’ve been reading still seems to argue that all social media (including Linkedin) should be used to supplement in-person networking. It would be great to document it if that’s not necessarily the case anymore.

    Reply
  • 2. Matt Cheuvront  |  December 16, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks for the comment Derek. If you’d ever like to chat about LinkedIn and/or using it to find work, feel free to drop me a line. It was an EXTREMELY valuable tool that helped me to set up a good amount of meetings as I was moving and getting settled to Chicago.

    Reply
  • 3. Jason  |  December 17, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Matt,
    Nice work with this. I’ll be losing the “noob” moniker for my social media use this year. I am not in Gen Y, so when I would try to introduce blogging, FB, Twitter to my old job, it was looked upon like I brought bad cheese into the room.
    Many of the things you wrote in the blog are things I have said to PR classes that I’ve talked to recently. I used Twitter to (eventually) land my current job. You have to be non-traditional nowadays. The LinkedIn angle is also VERY important. I stress to students that they should use it. And, like in sports… BE AGRESSIVE!
    I enjoyed reading your post; I’ll be following you on Twitter.
    Best,
    Jason

    Reply
  • 4. Matt Cheuvront  |  December 17, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for the comment Jason. You really do have to get creative and take a non-traditional approach these days. LinkedIn is a forgotten resource, but what that, as you said, should be used. It provided me with a ton of great connections as I was moving up to Chicago. Look forward to chatting more in the future sir!

    Reply

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