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A most unusual networking lesson

I recently attended a program on copyright law, a subject that has some relevance to my work but is even more interesting for the craziness of its implementation.

This particular session was on how restaurants and bars determine and pay fees for their radio, TV, and live-performance use of copyrighted music. If this system was implemented by the federal government instead of private industry, we’d never hear the end of how dysfunctional and anti-business it is, but I digress . . .

At the program I had an interesting discussion with a woman with an especially interesting business. Years ago she worked in the music industry but her career disappeared as traditional companies fell apart. So she decided to specialize in doing social media for restaurants and bars, building upon her server experience over the years in two restaurants and perhaps ten bars.

That expanded into doing special events for these establishments. Then she began to consult with restaurants on their strategies and menus, which led to international projects, especially for establishments abroad that serve primarily American and European expatriates. (I estimate she’s in her early forties.)

I asked for her business card, as I do wherever I go. Then I routinely ask them to connect on LinkedIn. (I am also rather liberal in accepting LinkedIn invitations so long as the person may be interested in my book and blog on how to freelance and consult or live in the Chicago area.

She didn’t have any since she is so tied into electronic communications, but said she may order some.

Connections, not networks

However, here is where it gets interesting (at least to me). She is looking for what she calls “connections,” not “networking.” The difference is that she only connects with people with whom she will cultivate true business relationships. She is not at all in it for the numbers. A third person in the conversation agreed with her.

I offered her a way to escape the conversation prematurely, figuring that I could not help her and was sort of wasting her time, although I found her life interesting.

She was in no rush to hurry off and initiate conversations with greater profit potential, but I never did get her name.

I’ve been rethinking my social media participation, but this interaction throws more fuel on the brain fire.

Reciprocal assistance in networking conversations is nothing new to me. Those of us who have any training in this area recognize that we should not babble on about ourselves at length but should ask the other person how we can help.

What makes this incident so interesting is not the idea of connectivity and mutual assistance. It’s the idea of refining my activity.

Every marketing and platform-development channel can be grown in size and effort. However, I’m more interesting in what to take off my plate, how to focus on what counts and leave behind activity that is not worth the effort.

Measuring the platform

The substantial numbers of connections I have made are not helpful. In particular, take Twitter, where I mounted a campaign several years ago to boost my numbers. Now I am up to over 14,000, which is impressive for someone like me, though far short of Kanye’s 14 million.

Though I am receiving Tweets from many of these accounts (and yes, I said “accounts,” not “people,” because a substantial share are commercial in nature), I am reading very little of what I receive. While many social networkers set up categories on specialized tracking services, I simply set up a few lists right there on Twitter to make it easier to reciprocate with people who have actually shown some interest in what I write.

Years ago I went to a New York City conference on book publishing and learned that big publishers consider such numbers as your Twitter connections in deciding if your “platform” is worthy of a publishing contract.

I was not impressed. If something that easy to manipulate is their measure of visibility, I’m not interested.

Originally posted 8-31-15

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