Building Relationships and Networking: It works.

Building relationships with people and taking the opportunity to network without expectation of return can lead to huge things.

Building Relationships and Networking Works

by Rob Zaleski
Originally published on LinkedIn

Let me tell you a story. A story about how simply building relationships with people and taking the opportunity to network without expectation of return can lead to huge things.

It all started with Mark Schaefer’s blog, Businesses {grow}. As an avid blog reader, I did what most people do: I’d leave my commentary on the blog and add feedback on other people’s comments, share the posts when I felt it appropriate, and tried to be part of the blogging community (as a blogger myself). In February 2013, Mark ran an email contest surrounding his upcoming book release with Stanford Smith, Born to Blog. These two authors were among my favorite bloggers, so I felt compelled to at least try and win the book. I sent the email laying out why I’d love a free copy of the book, and shared my interest in the topic.

To my surprise, I received a personal response from Mark that very day. This led to an exchange in which we ended up discussing SXSW, because I live in Austin and SXSW was just around the corner, and that perhaps we’d run into each other while he was in town. I figured the exchange would end there.

About a week later, again to my surprise, I received another email from Mark, inviting me to join him and a group of friends and visitors for dinner and drinks while he was in town for SXSW. After completely geeking out for a few minutes, I responded that I’d love to meet them.

When I got to the restaurant later that week, I met Mark in person for the first time, as well as Stephanie Wonderlin and Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, among others. We had a blast, and it was an interesting night full of marketing and social media talk. We all started following each other on all the important social sites (as you do), and went our separate ways. I figured it would be a one time thing and that would be that, but I was thrilled to have taken Mark up on his offer.

Mark W. Schaefer at SXSW
I was obviously pumped to meet this guy.

I kept up with everyone online because I genuinely enjoyed talking to them, and great conversations continued throughout the year (you should check out Stephanie’s GoPro capture of her wedding). Now, fast forward to the next year; Mark announces that he’ll be speaking at SXSW 2014 on the topic that had recently become very hot: Content Shock. I congratulated him and told him he’d have to let me know how the talk went, as I couldn’t afford a SXSW ticket this year. Being the generous guy he is, Mark reached out to me via email to let me know that he received a free day pass as a speaker, and asked if I’d like to use it so I could attend his talk. Who could say no to such an offer? I attended, and the talk was fascinating. If you haven’t seen Mark speak, I highly recommend it.

Being a fellow marketing professional and friend of Mark’s, Kerry O’Shea Gorgone was there too. Afterward, we got to talking, and Kerry invited me to hang out with her and a few others as they hit up some other discussions and the trade show floor. I originally planned to hit a bunch of other separate talks alone, but I decided to forego my initial plan and hang out with some cool kids instead. I had a complete blast, and was able to meet even more people because of that decision. Again, I figured it would end there (I still wasn’t getting the hint).

A few weeks later, I received a Facebook message from Kerry. She told me that a position had opened up at MarketingProfs (where she does the Marketing Smarts podcast and Professional Development seminars) and that she immediately thought of me for it. She asked me if I’d like her to put me in contact with the proper person. As a fan of MarketingProfs and their vast resources for content marketers and social media managers, I knew that simply interviewing with the people there would be a huge networking opportunity (I wasn’t actively looking for a new job at all), so I took the chance and said yes. What followed was the most fun series of interviews I’ve ever had, including a fantastic conversation with Ann Handley. Being that MarketingProfs has always been an information source I’ve personally gone to as a Content Marketer, the entire time I figured they would never hire me. Surely, they wouldn’t hire me. Maybe they’ll hire me. They might just hire me. They offered me the position.

To sum it up, two years worth of making real connections with people turned into a huge opportunity. I wasn’t trying to get anything out of Mark or Kerry. I genuinely respected both of them and simply enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) having conversations with them, both personal and about marketing. So take those chances, utilize those opportunities to get to know people by being personable. At minimum, you’ll make great friends. At most, it may alter your course.

Sometimes, you have to blog naked.

Nope, I didn’t stutter. You heard me right. Sometimes, you simply have to blog naked. Let me explain.

Maybe don't go quite this far...
Maybe don’t go quite this far…

I’ve been blogging for just over a year now. Each post is not only an opportunity to share the things I know and am interested in, but also opportunities to learn and grow as a blogger. Some of my posts are carefully crafted, pined over for weeks of adding notes into Evernote or saving and resaving as drafts. Some post ideas come to me in the shower, and I’ve literally sat down at my computer still wrapped in a towel to get my ideas down before they leave me. That’s kind of the idea behind this post.

Laptop in shower
I don’t recommend this method. At all.

Not all your ideas have to be carefully crafted. Many of my most successful blog posts have been rather off-the-cuff, and written more in the moment. An idea strikes me, or is really timely, so I just get it in a format I feel good about and send it on to the world. Maybe that will work for you, and maybe it won’t. When an idea hits you, however—act on it. Waiting until later may reduce the salience of your idea, or potentially have it lost altogether. I highly recommend some sort of idea-saving tool like Evernote, or even just your portable device’s notepad feature (most have them). I’ve even considered putting a dry erase board in my shower, so I can jot down ideas when they come to me in the shower (as they so often do!). So yes, sometimes you have to blog naked to make sure that your ideas are getting out into the world. Go do it!

Do you have a recommendation on an app or method that works for you? Share you thoughts and ideas with a comment below!

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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How Converse Won My Love During SXSW

I absolutely love the opportunities that social media can provide us. A mere twenty years ago, it would have been a rare occurrence to connect with anyone internally at a major company. With social, communication lines are more engaging, and often times more human, than ever before. Nothing could be more evident than my experience at SXSW last week.

Converse shoes free from SXSW
This is what free swag can look like!

My girlfriend and I were waiting in line for a Fader Fort show, presented by Converse. She was very excited to catch Solange Knowles (very talented younger sister of Beyonce, who put on a great show). I biked to meet her directly after I got off work, and we joined the forever long line after picking up wristbands. As is my standard, I checked in to the venue. Upon checking in on Foursquare, I was provided with the information of a sponsored hashtag for the event that would allow me the possibility to win some swag. As we social media nerds do, I immediately tweeted using the hashtag to announce my presence at the event, expecting nothing more than perhaps a retweet later or a thanks for enjoying the event. What happened next made my entire week.

Not only did Converse tweet me, they offered me a free pair of Converse shoes. I’m not one who wins things often, so this alone made me geek out. I was instructed to DM them with information so they could provide me a contact. This is where thing reached the level of super awesome. I was given a number to text message, allowing me to find the person who would get me free shoes after we got in. I did, however, I noted that we were in a line that was moving at the pace a snail could have easily topped.

Twitter conversation with Converse
How it all went down.

Rather than giving me a blase “Well, we hope to see you if and when you get in,” Converse obliterated my expectations. They told me to get out of line and meet a guy at the entrance. They were going to let us in, simply because I tweeted their hashtag. There was a strong possibility that we were going to miss Solange’s performance (see a clip below) with the look of the line, and an increasing number of badge holders showing up, but we were able to get in, get settled on a spot, and enjoy her whole performance. My girlfriend was thrilled with the show, and I was thrilled that I got some new kicks. All this thanks to the direct line of communication that social media provides. Guess who could be labeled a brand advocate for Converse now―this kid. Way to go Converse.

Have you had a similar experience, whether at SXSW or otherwise? What kind of awesome interactions have you had with a brand via social media? Share your story in the comments below!

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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The Internet Is Out of Control This Week

SXSW announcments galore, major changes to the things you know and love–ladies and gentlemen, the internet is out of control this week.

First off, I had an awesome SXSWi experience. I met some awesome folks and I’ll be writing a blog post about that soon.

If you haven’t heard already, Google has announced that it’s getting rid of Google Reader. It’s not worth their resources anymore, so you have until July 1st to get it together and aggregate elsewhere. For the full story, click below.

Also, just when you thought you knew Twitter’s format, it’s changing things up. You can now use line breaks. This could be awesome, or it could make your Twitter feed the most annoying thing on the planet. Let the unfollows begin. More information below:

OH, and then Facebook was all like “Hey guys, what about me? I’ll start working on allowing hashtags!” The internet is no longer as we knew it.

 

What do you think about these two developments in social media? Has this week completely disrupted your work flow, or could you care less. Share you thoughts with a comment below!

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

Follow this blog on Google Currents! Download the app in your app store or marketplace and click here to subscribe.