Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nurture your relationships - even when you're not "getting anything out of it"

Something strange happened today. I created a Facebook page for my business that offers marketing, branding, and promotion solutions using promotional products a few weeks ago. To date I only had about 20 fans and I decided that today I would go ahead and send suggestions to the rest of my facebook friends to become a fan of the page. Now I sent this to just about all of my facebook friends not just for self-promotion. Yes, I am promoting the company in hopes, but not just to garner facebook fans. Fans are useless if they're not interested in what I have to offer. I have over 500 facebook friends and that's 500 people who are doing 500 different things in their work and/or personal life right now. I couldn't possibly know everything that everyone is doing. Someone could be planning their wedding and looking for a nice gift to send their guests off with. Someone else might need to keep themselves at the top of their customers/clients minds this holiday season with holiday cards or one of those awesome meat/cheese packages. Yet someone else just might be throwing a holiday party soon and will need decorations or a way to promote their event. I have no idea.

All I hope is that those who think they might need a gift, cards, or any other promotional product in the near future will join the page and be aware of this new resource for them.

Alright so back to the original statement. Strange day. I sent off the suggestion to all my friends and 10 minutes later I get an email from an acquaintance that I had a sort of personal falling out with (but we're trying to remain cordial acquaintances), reading:

"I would like to keep our relationship professional. Could you please not send me this sort of thing? Thanks!"

I can only assume that he had not looked at the actual content of the page that I sent to him. I certainly can't expect everyone to even take the time to look at the page. Clearly he had not, so I responded with the following email:

"I'm sorry you misunderstood. This is my business's fan page on Facebook. I joined [the business] about a month ago and I would like my contacts to know about my new venture. However, you should not feel pressured in any way to connect professionally with my business on facebook."

Simple enough, I thought. He only misunderstood the content of my suggestion. Until he responded with the following:

"I guess what I meant by professional is that I would rather just hear from you when it benefits me professionally in some way.

Thanks for understanding"

It's hard to interpret this in any other way. If my contacts with him do not benefit him directly professionally, he would rather not have contact with me. I completely understand that he's busy and does not want to be bothered with communication from a business that he does not want communication from. I don't opt in to get emails from every website that I land on unless I think the content will benefit me in some way.

However, I know this person personally (whether we want to continue a personal relationship or not) and professionally. I would say that he is in my "network". We have worked together on multiple projects and events together in the past year and have many contacts in common. I view everyone in my network as having a symbiotic relationship with someone. The entire purpose of expanding one's network is to expand the network of people whom you can help and who can help you. It only works if it's a symbiotic relationship. If I were to cut out of my network all of the people who do not provide a direct benefit to my professional life at this moment in my life, I would be cutting out a lot of people. You have to nurture relationships; all relationships. Someone may not provide direct professional benefit to me now, but if we only communicated when someone was benefiting the other there would be no basis for a relationship. I believe that everyone should be treated as if they have the potential to provide you with a professional benefit at some point in time.

I worry that some people (ahem!) are so focused on networking for the sake of finding a job or finding the one person who will "benefit them" that they're not nurturing the rest of their relationships that they're seemingly "not getting anything out of". In the end I think those people will end up losing everything.

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