Social media allows us to discover, connect, and engage with new people of interest. While most people are open to new connections and receiving messages from people they don’t know, there is a fine line between reaching out and spamming. The challenge is to make a connection clearly and effectively without wasting people’s time.
Most of us are on both sides of this relationship — sometimes making the connection, sometimes receiving the invitation. To help bifurcate these different things and manage them properly, here are some points for better Social Networking with Unknown.
Go where they are
If you want to contact someone you have never communicated with before, it’s always better to do some research. Finding out the person’s preferred communication channel and going by it, is the best way to kick start a long lasting relationship. If they have a website, check out their contact page and see if they encourage people to contact them in a particular way, and follow their suggestion.
Make a note of the level of participation they have on various social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), so that you know where to start things from. When is the last time they posted on Twitter or Facebook? Do they respond to the @replies they receive on Twitter or comments on a Facebook page? Get a sense of their preferred means of communication and make contact where they are, you would be more likely to a positive and quick response from that medium
Say Just Enough
In the age of social media, we may be able to get the attention of more people, but we get it for a much shorter amount of time. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they send long e-mails or social media messages explaining all the reasons they want to connect. You may not have earned the five minutes of the recipient’s time that it will take to read that message.
Brevity is built right into Twitter, making it a great platform for making a first connection. However, if you use other channels, keep it simple. If there are 700 words you eventually want to get across, include only 50 in the first contact. Let the person choose if he or she would like more. Just make sure those 50 words get the point through.
Say what you need to and then let it go
Most of our e-mails contain phrases like “Please respond,” or “please get back to me”. It’s quite natural to expect a response for any kind of communication. Never bug a person on multiple platforms or times asking for their response on any particular thing. If the person wants to get back to you, he or she will.
At times people complain because they reached out to someone and never heard back. The fact is most people do not have the time to get back to everyone who contacts them just to say, “Not interested”. There may be times to follow-up, of course, but don’t do so with resentment or frustration.
This may seem like common sense, but don’t wait for the last line of your message to say that you want to meet for lunch, or ask your contact if he’d like to speak at an event. Put it right up front. Don’t keep beating around the bush before you make your point. If he cannot provide what you’re looking for, he’ll know sooner rather than later, and will appreciate you for it. It would save both of some time.
What You Want is Not the Point
You may think that what you want is a phone call or lunch meeting to discuss your big idea. But communication is more than any one project or meeting. What you really want is an authentic connection.
In a very real way, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the person is interested in discussing your project idea. Not many people respond in a better way to this kind of approach. What matters is whether you are making a connection or not.
If you focus on the relationship more than the specific request, and the person has a pleasant experience reading your opening communication, it is likely the door will remain open for possible collaboration in the future, and the next e-mail you send will more likely be fruitful.
Be Open without being Needy
Neediness never goes well with people. Statements like “I really need to talk to you,” or “it is essential that we speak,” show your general insecurity. There is a huge difference between being open to collaboration and “needing” it. Do not make contact until you are totally comfortable with any outcome, including a strong “no” or no response at all. Only then can you make authentic contact. When you do, openness rather than need will come through in your words.
Focus on thoughtful instead of continual contact
The key questions people have when someone new reaches out to them, particularly those who are quite busy, are “Do I have time to bring this person into my network? How much time will they take?”
Therefore, it won’t help your cause if you send too many e-mails or add request on multiple social media platforms. Doing this may send the signal that you are going to take a lot of your recipient’s time and communicating with you will take great efforts.
Instead, give communication some space. Unless something is very timely, let a bit of time pass before sending a response. Let communication have some breathing room. Once there is some level of trust, you can experiment with more immediate information exchange.
Do you have any other tips for better networking using social media? Do you agree or disagree with any of these tips? Let us know your views in the comments below.
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