Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Network Without Networking

"Ferdinand of Hungary meeting with Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain at Nördlingen" - Peter Paul Rubens
I’m not the life of the party. I’m not someone who can step into a gathering and work a room. I’m pretty introverted in real life. And I’m not what you might call a mover and a shaker.

But I think of some of the opportunities I’ve had over the years, some of the people I’ve been so fortunate to meet, some of the places I’ve been able to go and things I’ve been able to do… and yeah. Lots of those opportunities came from my “network” (those quotes are me cringing at that word).

So uh… How in the world did I develop a network when I’m not good at networking?

You hear so much about how it's all about who you know, how you have to network, etc. etc. For me personally, it's not something I made a conscious choice to do.

When I look back, I think there have been two big things that helped, and they’re things anyone can do:

1.    Do not think of your network as a network.
2.    Build something.

Do Not Think of Your Network as a Network

I don’t have a network, I have friends. And I’m really serious about this.

The thing about the word “networking” is that it has a mercenary edge to it, like we’re just going to get to know each other because of what we can get out of each other. And not only is that completely icky, it doesn’t work.

Because who wants to get to know someone else just because of what they can get out of them? How shallow is that relationship, and how is either party really motivated to help each other out when the time comes?

Find the people who you like and whose work you genuinely admire, and invest in those people. Become friends with those people. Don’t force it, don’t do it because they’re successful, do it because you like them and actually want to help them out.

Obviously when your network expands you can’t invest equally in everyone who is investing in you, but give of yourself what you can and treat people with respect and pretty soon you’ll be surrounded by amazing people that you’ll feel incredibly lucky to know.

And that leads to #2.

Build Something

Building things opens doors. For me it was the blog and the Jacob Wonderbar novels, but other people have built groups or organizations or journals or a Twitter following or any number of things.

When you build something it’s more than just creating a platform or a bully pulpit, what’s amazing about building something is that it will ultimately attract like-minded people to you.

You’re putting a part of yourself out there, and pretty soon you’ll find that you’re drawing in other people who like the things you like and share your outlook and worldview. It’s an amazing thing, and I’ve found some of my best, real-life friends through the blogosphere and social media.

And ultimately that leads right back to point number #1. It may seem trite or twee, but look: You’re not building a network, you’re making friends.






50 comments:

Mr. D said...

Another avenue to expanding this platform thing is getting married and having kids. Yep.

Carrie Filetti said...

There is hope for us hermits yet! Thanks for this, Nathan:)

Terri Tiffany said...

Thanks for this post. I try to do the same thing with the people I've connected with online here. And from that approach I've made some great friends and we have helped each other.

Valerie Ormond said...

Thanks, Nathan, I completely agree with your points. I find networking in the way many people use it distatesful - as if it is only a means to get themselves ahead. It should be about sharing, which connects with your point #2. If people build something worth sharing, it will garner interest. Appreciate your excellent articulation of these ideas.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Hi Nathan. I've experienced this on a small level (I just began seriously blogging last month). I've loved getting to know other writers via their blogs, and some have begun to visit mine as well. It's very cool. I learn a lot from them, and have begun to consider them friends.

I agree about the icky factor in pretending to make friends just to see what someone can get out of someone else. *shudder*

Lou Belcher said...

I like your point about friends versus a network. I get all closed off when someone tells me that they are so glad I'm in their network..... Yikes. So, if I couldn't provide them with something, would they not associate with me....?

Thanks, Lou
http://www.beforeyouwrite.com

Khanada said...

I really like that -- "I don't have a network, I have friends." Networking, to me, is another word for name-collecting. But making friends is real.

stacy said...

So true. I read a great book that confirmed this very point as well - Stephanie Palmer's Good in a Room. It's geared toward screenwriters who "get the meeting," but any creative could benefit.

Leo Godin said...

This is where bloggers excel. People who blog are more naturally inclined to make friends instead of networks.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

"Friending" someone (can I use that as a verb without wanting to put a fork in my eye?) anyway ...

Friending someone for what you can get out of them is the same as learning to fake sincerity.

Jan Cline said...

I love this. As a teacher of basic social media, I try to emphasize this very attitude. I hear a lot of bah humbug about networking, but it's how we do things these days - like it or not. It's up to us to see it in a positive way.
Thanks so much!

Michael Abayomi said...

Hello Nathan. I discovered your blog a few months back. And the thing that has kept me coming back is the fact that we share a love for J.K. Rowling's writing and her Harry Potter books. So it's true what you say here, about finding yourself surrounded with people that share similar interest. This is my first comment on this blog by the way. :)

Anonymous said...

"And I’m not what you might call a mover and a shaker."

A couple of martinis and the right pair of jeans, and this could be rectified easily :))

Dani said...

Amen!

Mira said...

Absolutely!! I couldn't agree with you more. Well said.

What I like best about this post is it guides some folks who may be trying to force the social media thing. They're uncomfortable, but they've been told they HAVE to do it. So, these people, often with the best of intentions, push themselves to do it with the goal in mind of selling books, and they can sometimes come across as off-putting.

This post gives people permission to hold social media lightly.

Yay! That's a gift. Great post, Nathan.

Megan Coakley said...

I started blogging because I wanted to write every day. The first time someone other than a family member posted a comment on my blog, I went and checked out her blog, and so on, and so on. I now consider many of my readers my true friends. I even attended my first writer's conference with a "blog friend," where I met more women who have become part of my support group/cheerleaders. We all want the best for one another, although I have yet to meet some of them in person! I don't always post in my blog every day, but I do check up on my "network," because those friendships matter more than professional success.

SBJones said...

As long as you stick with it, all you need is time to build your network.

My Blog

tricia-linden.com said...

Nathan, I would also say that one of the reasons your "network" is so big and awesome is because you are genuinly a nice guy, put out positive vibes and are nice to your friends. Give yourself credit for these strong 'networking' skills. Not everyone has them.
Enjoy always, T

JohnO said...

Well put. And all too appropriate in an age where our online activity is quantified for us by squicky kompanies like Klout.

Karen Lange said...

Nodding my head the whole way through! This is what I've done, without even realizing it till recently. I am amazed about what a wonderful group of friends (mostly writers) that I've found through my blog. Thanks for the encouragement!

Karen Doniere said...

I am a true introvert and it shows. A few years ago when I had my software training business I was forced to network weekly. Everyone was doing it for reasons that you've already stated, all of the wrong ones. As a new author and blogger, I've started to build genuine relationships. Thanks for sharing.

Courtney Walsh said...

I really love the idea of not thinking of networking as networking. I also cringe at that word... and in truth, making new friends IS a goal, so it's way better to look at it that way. Thanks!

Kevin Ott said...

Definitely agree. Making friends is far more enjoyable that creating "business associates" or something impersonal and rather cold.

Speaking of Mr. D's comment about having a family, my wife and I are about to have our first kid (a daughter), and just going through that phase of life has crossed our paths with people experiencing the same thing.

It really is about common interests and friendship. Things like Facebook have increased the signficance of that aspect of networking.

Kevin Ott said...

here's a p.s. to my last comment:

Not sure if anyone remembers me (I was one of the finalists in the Funny Story contest), but I just self-published a novelette called The Woods above the World. Here's the plot: three strangers investigating the same kidnapping find an enchanted kingdom ruled by John Keats and other famous literary figures from the past.

It's a short and sweet read and an earnest tribute to John Keats and William Shakespeare especially.

Here's the Amazon Kindle link:

http://www.amazon.com/Woods-above-World-ebook/dp/B006HTP3KK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323116663&sr=8-1

Mr. D said...

Congratulations, Kevin. You are about to go through the happiest time of your life. At least, that's how it was for me. And still is.

Adrienne said...

I like that you broke "networking" down to what's important. For writers, a lot of emphasis is put on this and it can seem overwhelming, especially for introverts. Thanks for giving me a reason to relax.

jesse said...

Well said.

Ryan said...

Sweet attitude.

The word marketing and networking has a horrible 'feel' to it when you are trying to share something as intimate as a book you wrote.

This past month when I was trying to get the word out for my book launch, I kept feeling like I should drop off fliers, postcards, and press releases to writing communities, relevant businesses, and follow up more with the media.

I did some of the stuff mentioned above but because of time and convenience and good weather, I ended up with an on-foot, kiddo on my back and dog leash in hand approach.

I struck up "real" conversations with neighbors, dog owners, and businesses close to my house. It felt a lot better than soliciting attention and a lot of people that I just met in the past week stopped by the launch party.
Felt good.

All that work on a press release to get a tiny paragraph in the Mercury and Williamette Week probably didn't yield one person of interest, but getting some exercise with my two boys and chattin' with some good folks certainly did.

Sidenote: My listing in the Mercury was right under Tom Brokaw's event so I posted a pic of it on his "Wall" telling him to stop by so we could trade books. He had other things on his agenda apparently.... :)

nebraskaicebergs said...

From one introvert to another, I appreciated your post. Two years ago, I joined an online writing group and became very comfortable in it. Then a few people wisely encouraged me to venture beyond those walls and start posting to other sites. Ironically, this has reduced how much time I have for them, but they seem to understand. This introverted writer is spreading her wings.

Perhaps "socializing" would be a gentler term. After all, socializing is about getting to know people, some of whom may become your friends. And this is what I am trying to do when I visit sites. I am trying to get to know other bloggers, readers, authors.... Am I going to become friends with everyone whom I meet through a post? No, just like we don't become friends with every stranger we meet at our job or wherever we strike up conversation. But, I will become part of a community and ultimately this means I will also develop some long-lasting friendships too.

Bryan Russell said...

Plus, I'm always better looking in e-mails.

Meghan Ward said...

This is a great post, Nathan, because most writers ARE introverted and are intimidated by the term "networking." And it doesn't have to be icky. By investing in people you have a genuine interest in, you're killing two birds with one stone - building your network and making new friends.

C D Meetens said...

I think that's very true. I've met some wonderful people by checking out different blogs, or finding them on Twitter. They certainly fall under the "friend" category.

TeresaR said...

This post again reminds me why I think yours is one of the best blogs for writers out there. You and I may never become friends in person, but I almost feel like you are a friend when I read your blog since you speak to my heart so often and of things that I need to, or long to, hear. Than you!

wendy said...

Wonderful words and attitude, Nathan. I never thought of networking and blogging like building something, but I should have. Thanks once more for shining a light.

RobinC said...

Introvert here! I can totally relate to your post. Whenever I go to a conference and see how much time is set aside for "networking" and forced social interaction I immediately think "oh crud" (insert much stronger word there)but whenever I do just sit back and chill and not think of it as networking - I end up meeting the greatest people. It also helps that I have a friend who speaks 'networking' fluently, so I can be the sidekick who smiles,nods and throws in witty thoughts now and again.

Sanna said...

I'd like to add Ferdinand of Hungary to my network.

Neil Larkins said...

I too am like so many of the commenters here: Introverted and/or have difficulty making connections...friends, if you will. I agree that I don't care a fig for the networking thing. Yet, even what little I have done that sits well with me has had no effect at all. I've belonged to a local "writers club" for over ten years. I have close friends and acquaintances. I have some old school chums. I have family. Despite that, not a single person - nary a one - has bought my little ninety-nine cent e-book that has been out there for some six months now. It's not like I haven't told them and in as non-commercial way as I could. None have even said they read the free exerp. Gotten pretty discouraged, I can tell you because it's telling me I'm a lousy writer. My wife thinks I'm great and she knows good writing, but that's as far as it goes.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Love this. Especially the "build something" part. I feel like I'm building little circles of friends, sharing knowledge and the journey along the way. It's pretty awesome. :)

Marie Gilbert said...

Nathan, I love your blogs. Very informative. I'm writing a paranormal trilogy, but my blogs which I have recently begun are about the funny aspects of my life,age, marriage and especially having nine grandchildren under my wing. I belong to a writer's group and post my blogs on my facebook page, but what else should I be doing?

Darlene Underdahl said...

It seems counter-intuitive for a writer (we don’t want ideas stolen), but sharing funny stories makes a person more likeable. And if someone else uses a variation of that funny story, what the heck? It can be applied more than once. With the internet, folks usually know where the story originated.

The same was true in business; I never hoarded knowledge. I even helped folks who were willing to backstab; I didn’t want misinformation or obstruction attributed to me. That wasn’t always satisfying, but it didn’t hurt me.

Cossette said...

Thank you for that! I hate networking...but making friends sounds so much more honest and doable.

Daniel McNeet said...

Nathan,

Good post and true too.

Marie said...

Thanks for this post. I'm an introvert and hate networking. But you are right, building something is how it should be done.

Robena Grant said...

Excellent post and I wholeheartedly agree. I'd rather have fifty real friends on FB than five thousand. My blog is crazy because I comment on every comment even though people have said don't do that. : ) I like it. If I didn't, to me it would be like inviting them my home and then not talking to them. I'm building friendships.

Vera Soroka said...

I'm very new to the blogging world. I'm still finding my way so it was very surprising when blogger let me know someone had left a comment. She was welcoming into the blogospere. She was really nice. I was so surpised that someone found me.

Nadria Tucker said...

If you're somewhat introverted (like myself!), those "networking events" can be painful. You're right--it is easier to sit down and brainstorm over drinks or dinner with like-minded people who are your friends than to try to get something out of a network of strangers who also want something out of you!

Anonymous said...

I took a step on the wild side and self-published my book--which will be available in a week. *bites nails* So, my network is my friends to start with, then hope the ripple effect will go from there. *crossing fingers*

Anne R. Allen said...

This is so wise. Every marketer needs to read this. Professional marketers who use social networking in a phony way aren't networking. They're selling. It's like showing up at a party wearing a sandwich board. When they advise newbie writers to do the same thing they make me want to scream.

Ellie Anthony said...

Genuine intent goes a long way towards achieving enjoyable, sustainable relationships in whatever form they may take. In that context, give and take becomes part of the flow of the relationship rather than a burden.

I do think there are differing levels and types of connections (networks)that people make, depending on their personal/professional goals/interests. For example, sometimes a professional requirement pushes us into realms not of our choosing, which is not always a comfortable position to be in.

So I guess I’m saying there are degrees of involvement, control, etc that come into play sometimes which can affect how enjoyable networking experiences are.

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