I was surprised when I started my business how many people just LOVED me at networking events.
I mean, I’d go to these things, meet someone for less than ten minutes, swap cards and voila!
They wanted to be my friend on Facebook.
I must be likeable, right?
It took me a while to figure out that I was just one in a massive collection of ‘friends’ who these kinds of networkers use as a selling tool. I’d been collected, stored on a list and not even wished a Happy Birthday, for goodness sake.
I started to realise when someone I thought I might like failed to speak to me for the months after she friend requested me, then tried to use the comments on some photo of my kid to sell tickets to her upcoming event.
Holllld UP! If you’re not here for the cute photos of my red-head tornado toddler, and you don’t really care about how my business is going or what I’m having for dinner, what exactly is it you’re doing on my list?
I don’t know where these folk went to networking school. Perhaps someone taught them that this is how you do it.
I don’t think it is.
Facebook is an awesome tool.
Like, really, I am 100% a Facebook Freak of a Fan. I turned my Facebook addiction into the second arm of my business, that’s how much I love it. (And, I have to admit, I am not on it any more than I was before my business… scary).
However, just because it works in a way that you can tag 35 people in your post about your new product and it appears on their feed, finding its way into all their friends feeds too, doesn’t mean you should.
If you know someone is totally going to be into your thing and being tagged in it’s going to be thrilling for them, knock yourself out. Equally, if you happen to meet someone at an event, or, perhaps, like I did, online and you liked their blog and got chatting to them on a forum and the way they parent aligned with yours so you friend requested them (OK, NOW it sounds totally naff), that alright too, I think. I hope…
Facebook, and indeed all social media, is the platform to begin a conversation. Start a new relationship. If you’re a “user”, as we called folk like this back in High School, then I don’t really want a relationship with you thanks. I already have children.
At a recent Personal Branding workshop run by the knowledgeable and ethical Queen of Manners, Sharron Attwood, I asked her the correct way to handle this kind of conundrum. I trusted she would help me manage the situation elegantly, being the epitome of ‘doing things properly’. I wasn’t sure which fork to use first, and if I should leave these ‘serial networkers’ on my restricted list (where they all got shuffled) or delete them altogether. I was tending to move away from the delete option, given I’d ‘cleaned up’ my list while pregnant and fragile and frightfully offended a mum at footy. (She hailed from the same spot as my husband’s ex-wife, I just wasn’t risking it. She’s still not talking to me to this day).
Here’s the advice Sharron gave me:
Check the person before accepting.
Have they friend requested 1500 people at the same time as you? Are they suddenly friends with about 40 mutual friends? If so, they’re probably ‘friend’ hunting; popping from one list to another to get access to people’s lists. If you’re not sure, just leave them there for a while and see what you think.
Have a ‘Facebook Follow’ button.
Giving new networking friends this option means that they can keep up with the posts you make public without necessarily needing to be on your friends list.
If you’re like me and you use your personal Facebook profile to have silly conversations with your girlfriends, find out world news, post photos of your kids being adorable (filtered, of course, through Instagram and with no mention of the grief they’ve caused all week), or photos of cake, these new professional friends probably won’t find much of any interest in your account. Giving them the option to follow the public version of you might just be a better idea – it was for me.
Here’s another idea that I utilised with those people I did really want to connect with but not through my personal page:
I sent a few simple messages saying that my personal page was just for friends and family but I’d like to follow their business page if they wanted to message it through and here was mine. No one got offended, no one refused to serve me coffee at the kids’ football, and the outcome remained the same – business people connecting through a channel made for it.
Now, there really are totally open and lovely folk out there with 2000 Facebook friends. They do business with them, they connect and chat, and they artfully meld a business and personal page together with just the right amount of blend. I’m not picking on anyone with a hefty Facebook friends list, by any means.
Whether you have 90 friends or 2500 friends, the guiding principles remain the same:
Have good manners. Deal with people the best way you can (not by deleting them at 4am in a hormone induced, fright fuelled panic.) Don’t use their page to promote your stuff, unless they’re AOK with it. Say Happy Birthday. If you get it wrong, apologise. We can’t all be Sharron, that’s why she runs workshops. We might get it wrong sometimes.
Remember, this is a relationship. Be your best.
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Emily Post, Author
Jay Crisp Crow
Yep, really my name