LinkedIn Etiquette: No, I Don’t Want What You’re Selling

As I connect with marketers on LinkedIn, I’m reminded about what Gary Vaynerchuk once said about high school kids and relationships.

They’re always trying to close on the first date.

I’ve lost count of the number of people on LinkedIn who wanted to connect with me, only to turn around and immediately email me with whatever they’re selling.

It’s happened to me for nine years, and I can tell you exactly how many people I’ve responded to with any interest: zero.

I see most people who sell to me on LinkedIn as snake oil salesmen (and women)While I’m not an avid LinkedIn user, I do check it a few times a week, respond to non-sales messages, and will even reach out to a few people for connections.

But I hate it when people I’ve never met try to sell to me on something I never said I needed.

I mean, maybe if I expressed some interest in a particular service, or I publicly lamented about a problem I was having, then I might be interested in what these marketers and salespeople have to say. If I say I hate WordPress because it’s so hard to figure out, or if I gripe that managing my accounts takes too long, then I would expect to hear from WordPress designers or accountants.

(By the way, I’m good on WordPress and accounting. No problems there.)

But when they contact me about their web design, mobile app design, or SEO services, it’s clear they never even read my website, let alone my profile.

When they DM me on Twitter — “Hi, , thanks for connecting! Here’s a free ebook I wrote, which has nothing to do with anything you do for your job!” — I write a similarly-worded message, and invite them to visit my own humor website. I even told a few I would be willing to listen to their sales pitch if they did it. I rarely get a response, which makes me wonder if they read their DMs.

While some people over-connect on LinkedIn, trying to amass as many connections as they can, I take a more reserved approach. I’ll reach out to people I’ve met before, and connect with them. However, I’m less reserved when it comes to accepting connections, because I don’t know if any of them are readers or have bought one of my books. Rather than appear rude, I’ve accepted the connections, only to get a sales message less than 12 hours later.

The Facebook Problem

The problem is easy to identify on Facebook. I think we’ve all gotten these messages. Depending on your gender, a young woman or young man with only two photos on their profile will send a friend request. They’re not in your friend network, except for maybe one mutual friend. Their profile only has one or two photos, slightly sexy, but not overly provocative. And you have no idea how you would know this person.

You only have to accept a couple of these to realize this is some form of spam. The account either changes to porn, or you’re bombarded with private message communication requests. After a couple of these, you learn to ignore friend requests from anyone who does not know several of your friends of both genders.

(Helpful hint: Guys, it’s a telltale sign — and also a little creepy — when a 20-something woman’s only friends are men in their 40s and older.)

We have the same kind of problem on LinkedIn. So many people fail to change their “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message that most people just accept it. I used to be more picky, and would only accept people who had updated their message. But I decided I was fighting a losing battle, and gave that up.

As a result, I fall prey to every salesperson who’s using LinkedIn to scope out their next cold call. Rather than trying to build a relationship or gauge my interest, they’re immediately pestering me for phone meetings and conference calls.

An accepted connection on LinkedIn does not mean I want to be sold to, especially when that’s the first communication I get from you. Not even a “hi, thanks for connecting.” Just a “Hi, we provide the identical service hundreds of other people have contacted you about.”

If you truly want to become a potential partner or vendor, take the time to gauge my interest and my needs. Provide me with useful information that will help me do my own job better and make my life easier. Share information, provide valuable content, and prove yourself to be someone who’s smart, knowledgeable, and capable of doing what you claim.

Don’t try to sell me in your very first communication. That’s a guaranteed “No.”

Photo credit: Carol Highsmith (Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress, Public Domain)

If You Get Angry About People Who Are Late, Maybe You’re the Problem

If you’re regularly late to meetings, you’re a terrible person who has no regard for human life, and you deserve everything bad that happens to you.

I don’t know what has crawled up people’s backsides lately, but I’m seeing variations on this theme from people who are tired of being kept waiting during meetings, while some insensitive clod blithely shows up whenever it suits them.

Greg Savage got the ball rolling five years ago with his blog post, No, You Are Not Running Late, You Are Rude and Selfish, and I’ve seen it reposted ad nauseum on Facebook and Twitter.

Angry Screaming Guy

If this is how you approach your business relationships, is it any wonder people don’t like you?

Recently, I saw someone tweet that people who are habitually late are either stupid, arrogant, or both. Then he included the hashtag #respect.

I responded, “I would think #respect also means not calling people arrogant or stupid.”

“Not if they’re habitually late,” he responded.

Talk about selfish. My time is important. My time is valuable. I don’t like to be kept waiting.

You’re not inventing a cure for cancer, you’re having a meeting. If your time is so valuable, you shouldn’t have scheduled it in the first place.

Maybe It’s You

I know it’s a symptom of the current political discourse, but I’m still surprised at people’s all-or-nothing view of humanity, elevating the smallest of transgressions into overly dramatic statements about their value as people.

Either you show up on time, or you’re selfish.

Either you show up on time, or you’re stupid.

Either you show up on time, or you’re irresponsible and you make poor life choices.

If you have this kind of attitude about your tardy colleagues, maybe you’re the problem. If you’re this uptight and easily prone to anger, look at the priorities in your life. Do you value timeliness over everything else? Would you rather have a person who shows up five minutes early to a meeting or someone who’s pleasant and a joy to be around?

Because it seems like you sacrificed the latter in favor of the former.

Yes, timeliness is something we should all strive for, and I agree that it’s frustrating to be kept waiting. But I also don’t foam at the mouth and call the other person an irresponsible turd when they’re 10 minutes late. I pull out my phone or laptop and get work done.

When you say the other person is chronically late because they don’t value or respect you, you’re probably right. They don’t respect you. They don’t even like you. You’re not a nice person.

Because you call them rude, selfish, stupid, and arrogant.

Why would anyone want to be around you at all, let alone get there on time to spend every possible minute with you? If people are regularly late to meetings with you, they’re not the problem, you are.

Try Extending Grace to the Other Person

I’ve been stood up for meetings by friends who forgot. I’ve had people go to the wrong location. I’ve had people who were involved in a car accident. And I’ve done all those things myself.

And when either of us were in the wrong, we apologized, the other person forgave, and we rescheduled. We didn’t passive-aggressively rant on social media about how “some people” were rude idiots. We didn’t trash the other person to our friends. We went about our lives and tried again later.

In short, we didn’t tear someone else down in order to make ourselves look good. We extended grace, we forgave, and we treated the other person with decency.

If you don’t like it when people are late, ask them about it. Don’t berate them, don’t call them names, and don’t rant about it online. Ask them if they’re aware it’s a problem. Explain to them how it frustrates you. Ask them to be on time in the future.

If they still can’t do it, cut them off. Stop meeting with them, stop inviting them to things, or start lying about the time, and tell them the meeting is 15 – 30 minutes earlier.

But try to be a grown-up about it. There are worse things in life to be, and worse problems in the world to stew about, like homelessness, starvation, and poverty. When you solve a couple of those, then you can be pissy about other people’s time management.

Until then, just get over yourself. Your missing 10 minutes aren’t that important.

Photo credit: B_Heyer (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Networking 101: How to Make a Solid Email Introduction

The key to good networking is not only meeting new people, but to serve as a referral source for others. But it doesn’t work to just tell someone, “you should call Bob. Tell him I sent you.” That’s a cheap cop-out, and those calls are bound to fail.

Branding Yourself cover image

Just a little tip from our book. I find myself still using this, even six years later.

For one thing, Bob is immediately going to be suspicious of anyone who calls him and starts name dropping. So he’s wary as you explain what you’re looking for.

Plus, he’s not emotionally invested. Sure, I told you to call Bob, but Bob doesn’t know why. And Bob isn’t going to trust you enough to say,”Oh, well if Erik sent you, you must be wonderful!” Bob needs me to tell him that you’re wonderful.

This is where the email introduction comes in. And if you’re a good networker, this is how you’ll introduce people. It’s quick, it’s effective, and it’s certainly a lot cheaper than inviting them both to lunch.

A good email introduction to people involves three things:

  1. An explanation of how you know each person.
  2. An explanation of how and why they can help each other.
  3. Some enthusiasm. You shouldn’t just connect people for the sake of making a connection. Connect them because you think they can actually do some good for each other.

Here’s how that email introduction should look.

Bob, meet Rachel Wentzel. Rachel is a direct mail marketer, and has helped a lot of companies with their own direct mail campaign. I’ve known her for several years, after she helped me with my own business.

Rachel, meet Bob Heintzel. Bob owns a marketing agency that specializes in digital strategies for B2B companies. I’ve worked with Bob for five years and watched him create some effective strategies that helped his clients excel.

Bob and I were talking over coffee today, and he mentioned that he had a client who wanted to launch a catalog campaign, and I immediately thought of Rachel.

I think that together, the two of you can help each other out, and make great things happen for each other and for Bob’s client. I’ll leave it to you to go forward from here. Good luck!

Let’s break it down

In this example, I’ve given a background of each person, and what I think the other person needs to know. I’ve also explained how I know them, so as to add some credibility to my recommendation.

I also explained the inspiration for making the introduction — Bob has a client who needs a catalog campaign. I do this because I can’t wait for them to figure it out themselves. Bob may find a direct mail provider before he ever sits down with Rachel, but I don’t want that. So I make it obvious.

Then, I step back and let them take the reins; they don’t need me for this. They can figure out a time to meet for coffee or lunch, have a nice conversation, learn more about each other, and then hopefully Bob will ask for assistance with his new client. If not, hopefully Rachel will remember to.

Finally, when it comes to an introduction like this, Rachel should take the initiative and reach out to Bob first. Why? Because she needs something Bob has, a paying client. Bob may not be in as much of a rush, so Rachel needs to take the first step, rather than waiting for Bob to clear his calendar.

Successful networkers aren’t known by the number of people in their Contacts list. Successful networkers are known by the number of referrals they make. Don’t just collect people in your email list or LinkedIn network. Do some actual good in the world and make email introductions between people you know. Explain how you know them, why they should know each other, and be enthusiastic about it.

The Right and Wrong Way to Promote Your Personal Brand

One of the rules of personal branding is to help other people. If someone asks for help, you give it. You don’t keep score, expect a return favor, or hold it over their head.

And you certainly never, EVER scream at the other person or make them feel like a schmuck for looking up to you or hoping you’ll take five minutes to help them.

But Cleveland communication pro, Kelly Blazek, broke that rule when she sent several furious emails to young professionals who asked for a connection and subscription to an email job board she offered 7,300 other Clevelanders.

Diana Mekota received one after asking to be included on Blazek’s email list, and to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Apparently you have heard that I produce a Job Bank, and decided it would be stunningly helpful for your career prospects if I shared my 960+ LinkedIn connections with you — a total stranger who has nothing to offer me. Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky.

Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky. Wow, I cannot wait to let every 25-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job. Love the sense of entitlement in your generation. And therefore I enjoy denying your invite, and giving you the dreaded ‘I Don’t Know’ [NAME] because it’s the truth.

Oh, and about your request to actually receive my Job Bank along with the 7,300 other subscribers to my service? That’s denied, too. I suggest you join the other Job Bank in town. Oh wait – there isn’t one.

Kelly Blazek letter to MenkotaShe wrote at least two other hateful emails to people who she believed were not good enough for her network.

Blazek’s responses are wrong on so many levels, and she says she knows that now (after she got blasted on social media, and her emails became an international story). She wrote an apology, and I’m inclined to believe it, but I think she’s damaged her reputation pretty soundly. There’s even a move to have her stripped of her 2013 Communicator of the Year award from the Cleveland chapter of the International Award of Business Communicators.

How Good Networking Is Actually Done

When you reach a certain position, whether as a professional, speaker, author, or any other visible role in your community or industry, you have to acknowledge that you got there with the help of a lot of other people. You asked people for help, and they gave it. Or better yet, you didn’t ask, but received it anyway.

People who reach these stages are often excellent networkers. They love sharing and helping others achieve their goals. Good networkers do it without thinking, bad networkers either don’t do it at all, or do it with many strings attached.

Good networkers operate from a few foundational principles.

  • Your network should never be closed. While there are problems with having it be too big, there’s a lot more to be said against making it exclusive. You’re not a celebrity, and your friends aren’t movie stars and rock stars. There may be connections you protect from casual introductions, but that doesn’t mean you completely shut everyone out.
  • Blazek blasted Mekota as being “a total stranger who has nothing to offer me.” Good networkers believe everyone has something to offer. But to say a person has no value? That’s one of the worst things you could tell someone. Each of us has something to offer the world, and sometimes our job is to help others realize what their gift is.
  • “Nothing to offer me.” Good networkers never expect the other person to have something to offer them, because networking is not an “I’ll do for you only if you do for me” relationship. If you expect a quid pro quo exchange, people will soon grow tired of you. Keeping track of favors makes you stingy, and no one will want to help you at all.
  • And while you should never be rude, you definitely shouldn’t leave evidence of your rudeness. Not only does it make you less of a person — remember, we’re supposed to be our best selves — but your rudeness will be shared for everyone to see. In just a few short minutes, Blazek undid 10 years of hard work, all because she thought she was too good to help, and that they were beneath her.

Blazek has since closed down her Twitter account, LinkedIn account, and her WordPress blog. But in her wake, another Twitter account, @OtherNeoJobBank (“Oh wait, there is one”) has stepped up and is sharing job openings around the Cleveland area.

Mister Rogers Knows Networking

In the words of my hero, Mister Rogers, “I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said ‘yes,’ when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else.”

The people who taught me about networking all modeled this idea. They said yes, even when it meant extra work for them. So I do the same for others; I do what I can to teach them to do it for the people who will come to them one day, asking them for the same help.

Networking is never about paying back. It’s about helping others achieve their goals, and teaching them how that’s done. Because one day, when they’re established and have reached the next level of their career, someone will ask for their help.

The lessons they teach and the help they give, will be a reflection on me, which is a reflection of those who taught me, and those who taught them. I hope they understand the long line of giving they come from, and continue to carry it on.

Free Tickets to Revenue North Indianapolis, March 21, 2013

Revenue North Indianapolis is a one-day conference for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and job seekers. It’s filled with breakout groups, each with 12 speakers per block. We’re covering the gamut, from search engine optimization to finance to social media marketing to pitching investors to networking.

The event is Thursday, March 21 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel, 2544 Executive Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46241, from 8 am to 5 pm.

Erik Deckers speaking in public

“And the doctor said, ‘that was no duck, that was my wife!'”

I’m speaking at 8:00 am in Fortune Square D and again at 9:15 am in Golden Ballroom 7 on 10 Personal Branding Secrets for Professional Success.

My talk will go beyond the “you have to be on LinkedIn,” Personal Branding 101. . .stuff you see at these kinds of events. It will be 201 and 301-level material. (Basically, if you’re reading this, you already know why you have to be on LinkedIn and Twitter, because that’s probably what brought you to this page.)

If you own a business, you need to be here. If you do sales and marketing — especially Internet marketing, you need to be here. If you’re looking for a job or a chance to network, you need to be here.

The price is normally $99, but if you use my special code — A28LG7 — you can get in for free. My goal is to bring in at least 2% of the attendees, although I don’t get anything for it. Just a warm, happy feeling all over.

Check out the Revenue North Indianapolis schedule here.

You can register for Revenue North Indianapolis here.

Long-Term Unemployed Means Unemployable To Some Heartless Employers

Haven’t had a job for over a year, and you’re worried about how to take care of your family?

Not our problem, say some employers. If you haven’t found a job, that must mean you’re not a very good worker, so we don’t want you.Bread line

A recent article in the New York Times said that Monster.com and other job boards are listing jobs that tell people who haven’t had a job in six months or more don’t need to bother to apply.

The New York Times’ Catherine Rampell said she found preferences for the already employed or only recently laid off in listings for “hotel concierges, restaurant managers, teachers, I.T. specialists, business analysts, sales directors, account executives, orthopedics device salesmen, auditors and air-conditioning technicians.”

While it may not be against the law specifically to discriminate against unemployed people, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is looking into whether some minority groups are being discriminated against, since their populations are overrepresented in the unemployed ranks, including African-Americans and older workers.

Unfortunately, many employers — safely nestled away in their cubicles — are heartlessly breathing “there but the grace of God” every time they get another résumé from a casualty of the crappy economy and poor job market.

There are so many places this post can go, I don’t even know where to begin.

  • I will boycott any business that expressly discriminates against the long-term unemployed, and will encourage others to do the same. The University of Phoenix had similar requirements on their job listings, but pulled them down after the Times called with some questions. Hopefully this means they amended their practice, rather than just removed evidence.
  • Small businesses that are hiring should look harder at the pool of the long-term unemployed. You could truly make a difference in someone else’s life.
  • If you’re unemployed and have the kind of job you could run as a solo effort, start your own company. If you’re a former marketing agency account exec, start an agency, and hire creative freelancers to fill tasks. If you’re a former IT worker, now you’re an IT consultant. If you’re a sales director, become a marketing rep for several lines. You can put this on your résumé, even if you don’t make a lot of money from it.
  • If an employer ever says you have been unemployed too long, immediately contact the EEOC office in your area and file an official complaint. It may not do much for you, but if you fall within a protected group of people, they’ve got your complaint on file.
  • On the job boards, you’re competing against hundreds of other potential candidates for a single job. Plus, the companies that hire on Monster and other job boards don’t always have the jobs that people truly want, or that can easily be filled. Some jobs go unfilled for a long time for a reason. It must mean it’s not a very good job, so no one wants it. Take a long hard look at companies that have had the same jobs available for more than a month.
  • Most importantly, stop applying for jobs on job boards altogether. If you want a real job, network with people on LinkedIn and Twitter. You’re not going to get it by perusing the online version of the newspaper Help Wanted ads. See if you can bypass the HR department and connect directly with the hiring managers through the social networks.

If you’re having a tough time finding a job, start your own business. It may not be a raging success, it may not even get you enough money to replace your lost salary. But it’s something you can put on your resume when you’re applying for your next job. This way, you won’t look unemployed.

The short of it is if you’re discriminating against people who haven’t been able to take care of their families, shame on you. I hope your poor attitude is visited back on you. And if you’re looking for a job, make your own. Start your own business. Quit checking the job boards. Spend that time networking with real people instead. If you’ve been unemployed for a while, you don’t have anything to lose by starting your own business, and may get some extra benefit out of it.

At the risk of tooting my own horn, my book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is a good resource for people who want to use social media to network to their next job or big engagement..

Photo Credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University (Flickr)

FollowBlast Allows Twitter Users to Connect Based on #Hashtags

It was the greatest thing at Blog Indiana 2010: someone on the stage mentioned BlastFollow.com as a way to follow a lot of people who were all using a specific hashtag, like, say #BIN2010. Everyone in the room immediately went to BlastFollow on their laptop and started using it.

Unfortunately, BlastFollow went away after Twitter upgraded their system, not allowing non-OAuth access to the API, blocking 3rd party apps that let you mass follow and unfollow people, and insert other geek mumbo-jumbo here; I can’t recall everything. TweepML.org was a suitable replacement for a while, until they shut down in October the site to make some repairs, promising to get the system back up two weeks later. It’s early April, and they’re still not back up.

FollowBlast.com is the new hashtag find-and-follow tool from my friends Noah Coffey (@NoahWesley) and Chuck Gose (@ChuckGose), and is something they just completed earlier this week.

I had a chance to check FollowBlast out right after the Indianapolis Social Media Brekafast, using the hashtag #indysm.

FollowBlast.com lets you find and follow other Twitter users based on their #hashtags.

FollowBlast.com lets you find and follow other Twitter users based on their #hashtags.

The way FollowBlast works is that it pulls up the 50 most recent tweets that used that particular hashtag, and it lets you follow those people, either selecting them one at a time, or allowing you to mass follow those 50 people. (That’s how they get around the limits Twitter has placed on mass following/unfollowing.)

While the product is still very new, and has a few bugs to work out, it’s a great tool, especially if you go to a conference or event you’re not familiar with. It’s ideal for people who have newly joined Twitter and have an interest in a particular idea or event.

My one word of caution to FollowBlast users is that you do not use the Follow All link until you have checked out the results first. The first time I did it, I unintentionally followed someone I did not want to and had to go back and unfollow them.

The tool is supposed to filter out people you’re already following, but that wasn’t the case for my results, as most of them ended up being people I was already following. However, knowing Noah and Chuck, I’m sure that will be fixed soon.

FollowBlast has a promising future as a very useful tool for special event and conference attendees. It’s filling a very big hole that BlastFollow and TweepML have left, and as FollowBlast grows and improves, it’s going to become indispensable.