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Building Relationships: 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Social Networking Sites

Building Relationships: 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Social Networking Sites
Get the Most Out of Social Networking Sites

The Internet has changed the way we relate to each other, as business partners, as clients, as friends, as family, even as lovers. Not only has it become easier to stay in touch with people we already know, it has become easier to find and connect with people we’ve never met before — and might not ever meet at all!

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Whether you’re looking for new customers, a new audience, a new business partner, a new vendor, new friends, or a new one night stand, you can maximize your use of the Internet and the wave of social networking sites that have cropped up to help us connect. Doing even a few of these things will set you apart from the vast majority of people who view social network sites as toys and networking as “just for fun” (though it can be fun, too).

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  1. Have a clear purpose: Know what you’re using a social networking site for. While it’s ok to have a profile somewhere that’s just for “hanging out”, you need to know that hanging out is its purpose. If you are using a social networking site to try to build an audience, connect with other professionals, or meet your next wife, it should be focused on achieving that end. Don’t muddy the waters by trying to advertise your dog-walking service, pick up dates for the weekend, post pictures of the company picnic, and build an audience for your homebrew science fiction video series.
  2. Complete your profile: You’d be surprised how many people never do this. Yet it’s the first thing people want to know about you. Most people check all the boxes (I’m a Virgo, in a relationship… done!) but don’t do much with the real “meat” of their profile, the About Me section. Put some thought into what you want people to know about you and why people should care.
  3. Don’t follow the leader: It can be tempting to sit back and wait for people to contact you, for people to leave comments, for people to suggest installing some new application — rousing yourself only to respond to whatever prompts come your way. Take the initiative and add people, select a handful of apps you like and stick with them, and update on a semi-regular basis (or a regular basis; schedule 30 minutes a week to update your profile, if it’s an important part of your public image).
  4. Accept everyone: There are two schools of thought on this: create an inner circle of close colleagues, comrades, or companions; or create a huge body of followers, fans, or ex-girl- and boyfriends. I fall into the second camp — anyone who has taken the effort to “friend” me gets added. Those are the people who are willing to invest their attention in what you’re doing, who have given you permission to “broadcast” your life to them. Welcome them.
  5. Add everyone you know, no matter how little: Most services these days will scan your address book and tell you if there’s anyone you might already know onboard. Some will also recommend people a on people you already know, places you’ve worked, or interests you’ve highlighted. (LinkedIn is scarily good at this!) If you come across someone you actually know in “real life”, no matter how distantly, add them. That is, after all, the point of social networking — to leverage the often-invisible connections that exist between us and other people. The worst that can happen is that they say “no” — this has never happened to me.
  6. Pick one or two networks and work them: It can be tempting to sign up for dozens of social networking sites, especially when different contacts turn up on different sites. But it’s nearly impossible to make use of a dozen different sites, unless you figure out how to make a career of it. Instead, pick one or two sites and focus all your energies on creating useful, meaningful connections there.
  7. Send messages: Find a reason to connect with the people in your network, and send them a message once in a while. Since the main point of this is to keep a channel of communication open, it doesn’t have to be profound — a “happy birthday” is good, if the site reveals birthdays. Don’t, though, make it all about you — that is, don’t post a message to everyone in your list every time you update a picture, go to work, or leave your house. (You laugh — I’ve had friends that did this!)
  8. Have something to say: Let people know why you’re there, what your purpose is, and what makes you, you. Give people a reason to pay attention to you. Although most people in your circle will stay in your circle indefinitely if you don’t do anything at all, having connections because they’ve forgotten you’re there is hardly the best use of a social network! Post something to your front page, blog, wall, or whatever it is every now and then, so that people learn something about you.
  9. Avoid clutter: Remember when MySpace pages were awful and Facebook pages were clean and simple. No more — now it takes about 8 minutes for your profile anywhere to get covered with junk. If your page is so full of junk that nobody can tell anything important about you, you might as well not have a page. Limit yourself to only 3 or 4 extras, and either stick with the default theme or try to find one that’s clean and simple.
  10. Firewall your personal with business lives: This might not apply to everyone, but for most people, once you’ve decided to use a social networking site for business purposes, don’t use it at all for non-business communication — and vice versa. Remember that the story about you, the goat, and the magnum of champagne is going out to everyone you’ve allowed to see your profile. That’s not something you want to share with potential business partners. If necessary, create two profiles on the same site, one for your business persona, the other for your personal life; instead of denying friend requests from friends and family, you can just refer them to the other profile.

Social networking sites have a reputation as being huge time wasters, and for most people, they are. If you can afford that luxury, more power to you; for the rest of you, really think about what social networking can do for you and focus your energies to making that work.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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