OK, so everyone knows how gaga I am over social media and the act of social networking. It is a key component to my overall networking (and marketing) strategy. Being able to connect with more people in more places across the globe has allowed me to stay up on industry trends, challenge my opinions on certain issues, and educate myself (yes, you can be educated through social networking…who knew!?). I often like to tell people I’ve been social networking since before it had a name! I’ve been using social media since the primitive days (and before that too had a name). As an early adopter I’ve had the distinct advantage on many occasions to get the pure essence of many sites and tools before they became overrun by the masses. Back when people were leery yet excited about the potential of a new site and the opportunity to connect with some great people. The one thing that always sticks in my ass these days is the way people and businesses take a site or tool and “commonize” it (is that even a word?) for all purpose marketing and dare I say harassment. Social networking sites have become a way for people to tout how many “friends”  or followers they have. It has become a sport and even worse, bombarded by marketing messages.

Coming from a recruiting background, I am all about the relationship. I’ve never been big on growing numbers for the privilege of boasting how popular I am. Call me crazy, but that’s never been my thing. I’m into organic growth and real relationships. Granted, I don’t know each and every person who follows or connects with me. But I am trying to make meaningful connections and get to know those people who find me interesting enough to follow and connect with. I’ve put my own quest to connect on hiatus because people are tired of getting invitations to connect. I can’t blame them. I get tired of trying to figure out the motives of those who try to connect. Are they genuinely interested in getting to know me? Do they want to connect and learn more about my expertise and possibly learn from me? Or do they just see someone who’s numbers are growing or who’s been on panels and in articles and want to connect to get a piece of that? Who knows these days. Especially when you get email after email saying “Hi I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linked In” without so much as a hint how they found you or why they want to connect. Well I say enough.

This week I decided I had enough and launched a new social networking project- Operation Social Outreach. No, it’s not an official name or or website or anything, I just like the sound of it. I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of connecting with people or accepting invitations to connect only to receive an automated response telling me to click a link, download a “gift” or check out a website. Or still getting those generic Linked In invites. People just don’t feel they need to take the time to introduce themselves. Would they come up to you at a conference and say “hey connect with me”? No, they wouldn’t. They would introduce themselves properly. So why don’t they feel the need to do it online? They wouldn’t walk up to you and say “you want to learn more about me, check out my website”. No, they would tell you a little about themselves. What the hell happened to common etiquette? A simple “thanks for connecting, tell me about yourself” or “thanks for the add, let’s connect via phone to get to know one another” goes a long way in building a relationship. So why aren’t people doing it? Well I have a couple of theories, but let me stick to three of my favorites.

Celebrities & so called Internet Celebrities have taken over.

Yes, you read me right. Every time something big gets going for the common folks, celebrities come on board. Now I’m not saying they aren’t entitled. But they take social networking to another level.  They set up accounts, gain tons of followers, then sit back and engage only with people they know personally. So they’ll have a couple of thousand (or in some cases millions) of followers and communicate with about 10. Well if you know them already, use the damn phone! A smart celebrity or public figure would tap into the power of social media to ENGAGE their public and build (or strengthen) their brand. As someone who is becoming more in the public eye, I use social networking as a means to engage in conversations, find out what my public wants to talk about, and educate by sharing my knowledge. I pay attention to what people say and want. And most importantly, I do my own communicating. Some of these celebrities hire people to communicate for them. Where’s the authenticity? And do I even need to talk about the Internet Celebrities?

Internet Marketers & “Gurus” told people it’s OK to blast their business services/products because it’s free or cheap and EVERYBODY is on it.

OK maybe it’s unfair to paint Internet Marketers with one broad stroke. But it seems like many of them are reading from the same manual when it comes to social media. There is nothing worse than being bombarded by marketing messages, especially when it’s intrusive.  I like to get to know about people, not their products or services, when I connect. Ease me into it. People buy from people they know and trust. If I just connect with you on Monday, what makes you think I’m going to buy from you on Tuesday? By immediately bombarding me with sales pitches and marketing messages, you’re showing me that I’m a lead, not someone you want to connect with. How do you expect me to take you seriously? So many of these people are so caught up on making a sale, they forget about the SOCIAL aspect of social networking. And besides, don’t you know that after a while, all of those messages all look alike. If you’re going to follow the Internet Marketing “Gurus” at least change up your style! A lot of those websites look exactly the same. Here’s a tip for you. If you even think I’m your “target market” get to know me and what my touch points are. Take the time to interact with me and learn how to work with me. I care more about relationships than I do making purchases.

People just don’t care. They’re joining because everyone else is doing it.

I’ve seen this in the recruiting world a lot. A site will pop up and a few early adopters will try it out. Then someone like clockwork will write a book or post or teach a class that positions them as the “expert” of this site. Then everyone and their momma will go running to the site because it’s the in thing to do. I find Facebook to be the latest victim of this. In the beginning, people avoided Facebook. They dismissed it as being something kids used. But somewhere along the line, business crossed over into the personal and we got what we have today. It’s talked about on television shows, mentioned in magazine articles, it’s even part of every day life in movies. So now everyone is on it. Some people don’t even know why they are on. Whatever the reason, people are using it to avoid having to network in real life or because everyone else is doing it. In my opinion, this cheapens the experience and goes against the intentions of networking.

Networking, especially online networking, is about relationship building. It’s not about selling or popularity contests or number padding. It’s about finding people who add value to your life in some way. It’s not supposed to be about egotistical, selfish motives. It’s supposed to be about engagement. If you’re not communicating or opening yourself up to connecting with people, then why are you wasting time and bandwidth? It’s not supposed to be about You. Networking is a team sport. If you’re not ready to embrace that, perhaps it’s not for you. So I’m calling out the fakes. Don’t waste people’s time. We don’t care about your self serving purposes. It’s all about making real connections.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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