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12 Comments // Filed in Web / Etc

Networking, Exclusivity, and Friendship

I haven’t been an active blogger and never have been. However, once in a while, reading a few posts from other people’s blogs can spur (read: incense) me enough to respond. I want to talk about How to Make Friends on the Web. Everyone knows how important networking is to the core of their business, and everyone has a different way of going about it. There are really only two sure-fire ways to make a genuine connection:

  1. meet them in person
  2. be awesome

Some of us don’t always have the luxury of one (though that’s part of the reason why I encourage people to go to conferences), and Number 2 is obvious but means different things to different people. And it’s #2 that I will have to take a little issue with.

Now, I love Merlin Mann and Brian Clark both of whom I had the pleasure of “meeting” (in quotes, because I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to sit down and talk to them) them both at the awesome IZEAfest event I spoke at last September. Both men deserve their reputation and business because they have worked very hard to be awesome in their respective fields and websites. Of course, that makes both of them so busy that a few times during the conference, they both said, “Please don’t email me” expecting a flood of inane questions, and just asked people to be awesome (I am paraphrasing, I know) and they will find you. Create a nice website, blog, etc. and the rewards will come eventually. And yes, that is true. But, it’s also too simplified.

And it bothers me a bit because I feel like it essentially alienates some from potentially reaching out genuinely. Is an inane question really that horrible? I guess if you get 100 of them a day, it does, and I understand, I truly do, in trying to discourage that. Of course, I disagree with commenters or respondents that demand you reply to every message. But, I think if we err on the side of Gary V who tries to engage with almost everyone that says “hello” to him, is that so bad?

Now, without trying to sound like a douchey name-dropper, I’m going to list a few of the “inane” ways I’ve connected genuinely with some very prominent people on the web:

  • Years ago, I contacted this British programmer about a font he designed that wasn’t working in Flash. On IM. This was before I even started Lealea Design. I didn’t expect him to reply, but he did. Our conversations eventually moved beyond typefaces, and soon we were chatting about other things we had in common. I was a relative “nobody” at the time. I was not “awesome.”
  • When I had my personal blog, this Florida-native designer wrote me an e-mail after I wrote an angsty post about my break-up with my ex (gasp! human, after all!) I had no idea he was one of the 26 people (based on Feedburner) subscribed to my personal blog. He sympathized with my situation, wrote me a sweet e-mail, and forwarded me an MP3 of his singing group to cheer me up.
  • Another dance loving designer I know I connected with based initially at first because of our heritage, but also our love of anime.

Now, a lot of the other “cool” (man, it’s hard to not sound douchey) people I got connected with because they genuinely enjoyed my website design, or the articles I’ve written resonated with them. And the next obvious one was because they met me at a conference and liked me. So the two sure-fire ways are working on my favour, too. However, I wouldn’t want to discourage someone saying “hello” or asking a question, even if it might be a little lame. How do I know you’re not the next upcoming web star? Or a future client? Or someone who can give me a future client? Or future genuine friend, not web acquiantance?

I guess all I have to say is that we all started lame at one time, and someone out there gave us a break, a smile, an encouraging word. Sometimes that’s enough. Err on the side of Gary V, I say. Err on the side of Gary V.

12 blabs to Networking, Exclusivity, and Friendship

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I couldn’t agree more. I put myself currently in the relative “nobody” category but have still had the pleasure of talking to some of the most respected people in the industry and having those people respond to you without looking down upon you really means a lot.

I can understand that some people are genuinely too busy to reply to all the emails and messages they receive but I can’t help feeling that some of those just don’t want to reply. It’s a shame and not all of the “cool” people are like that so I too wouldn’t discourage anybody from getting in touch from time to time.

Cool people don’t have expectations of others.

Expectations that they will be inane or that they are supposed to respond “when I send them an email.”

Anybody who says the act of reaching out to make a connection shouldn’t be done is a douche (or in my case just afraid of humans).

I’ve had the opportunity to do some cool things online, meet cool people, but I still consider myself a nobody.

I don’t think “be awesome” is good advice. I think better advice is “be open.”

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Dec 13
12:03 PM

Matt, as per usual, you are right on the money. “Be open” is completely the true idea of it all.

However, I do agree that if you’ve contributed something (whatever that “something” is), most likely that would attract more people than not. Hence, the pithy summation of “be awesome.” And hence, my problem with it being summarized as such, because it’s way too exclusive, instead of inclusive. Networking is meant to be inclusive.

Now, as I read this, I also don’t want to make it seem like I’m trying to heighten people signal to noise ratio. Everyone is in their rights to bluntly state they won’t reply to every e-mail, meet every pereson, and we are all most likely to reply if you have something relevant to say, contribute, etc. That’s just the reality of business and “GTD” and 80/20. You have to filter. But I would never discourage someone from contacting me, period, no matter how simple or complicated the discussion could be.

The biggest thing I’ve learned about making connections is that I need to force myself to communicate and when I do, to find common ground. By my very nature, I’m an introverted person. I’m quiet, I mumble a LOT and I don’t go out of my way to talk to those I don’t know. People I’ve met at conferences or at Refresh meetups probably don’t know that about me because at industry related events I tend to talk to everybody and have a great time meeting new people. Why? Because I know I have something in common with them.

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Dec 15
02:49 PM

Jason, I understand what you mean by forcing yourself to communicate and find common ground. Sometimes, I am also at a loss and get bouts of incredible shyness, incredibly enough.

Meeting you at SXSW, I saw a very friendly, open guy, and it was very easy to not be shy around you. :) Like you said, common ground eventually can be found. That being said, SXSW is almost like shooting fish in a barrel. Finding common ground with geeks who proudly exclaim their interests makes for easy networking. ;-)

I just moved to San Francisco about 6 months ago from London, Ontario. I was so exciting to mingle with the “blogging elite” and make connections.

Trouble is, most of the bloggers that I read and idolize are exactly what you described above. They have no time to respond, no time to communicate.

At the start I took it personally, but then I realized how busy they must be.

Since then, I started meeting more people just like me in my own blogging peer group. I started forming bonds wtih people I met in person. In person seems to be the real key.

(BTW, love your blog lea… been reading it for about 4 years)

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Jan 12
08:53 PM

Hi Christen! Yes, it’s hard not to take personally if snubbed a little. I think part of it really is sometimes the “chemistry” simply isn’t there, as opposed to busyness.

I think that’s probably be the more accurate reason for why some people click with others, and sometimes it’s luck. To have genuine things in common while having compatible personalities with friends and romance is hard enough to find; it is equally as hard when searching for career equivalent connections.

And, it’s hard to have chemisty if you don’t get out there an meet people, I agree.

1) Meet them in person
2) Be awesome.

Can’t go wrong with that.

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Jan 22
11:21 AM

In the same vein as this post, I just stumbled upon Scott Adam’s latest blog post on defining friendship

Must read.

Picture of Liam

Name Liam

Date Jan 22
11:36 AM

The great thing about the web is that it is a social leveller so the barriers that exist in the real world that prevent people from communicating with each other are null and void.

It may be impossible to respond to everybody, if you are lucky enough to have a profile that attracts such attention, but ti doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Congratulations, cool site…cool blog!

Picture of Dhamphy

Name Dhamphy

Date Aug 31
11:16 AM

You are really right about these two:
1) Meet them in person
2) Be awesome.

Actually I’ve meet some of my blogger friends in person and it’s really great to have connections to them personally. And I also think that I’m awesome sometimes. hehehehe…

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