I’ve always hated the word “networking”. It makes me think of college career fairs. You know the ones. You’re carrying a leather resume holder that you bought at the school bookstore, wearing the grey pant suit you bought at Express. At this point, it probably smells like B.O. because you can’t machine wash those things and what college student is getting shit dry cleaned on the regular.
If you’re a girl, you have those stereotypical black pointy toed heels on, because god-forbid you show your toes at a career fair. You’re supposed to approach potential employers and act like you have acquired some sort of skill set at your overpriced university, while meanwhile all you want to do is take their free mints and airplane-shaped paper clips and run. (Thank you Boeing, I still use those).
What were they even hiring for? What did a Marketing Major really know how to contribute to a company at that point? The answer: nothing. No one was hiring anyone with Marketing degrees! HA! I might as well have majored in liberal arts.
The point is, for someone who prides herself in being outgoing, “networking” events always made me feel forced and unnatural. And sweaty.
I’ve since grown out of that to a degree (alcohol helps) and can comfortably approach strangers at these once-dreaded “networking” events.
But what if I’m trying to network with people who aren’t nearby? How do you go about doing that?
A lot of people would say LinkedIn. And good for those people. I’ve yet to master the Facebook of professionals.
For me, the secret was Twitter.
Two years ago I successfully networked my way out of a 9-5 job--and around the world--through my use of twitter.
It wasn’t about followers. I think I had like 30 at the time. Yeah… I was a big deal.
It was about conversation. I engaged people I wanted to know in conversation. I didn’t ask them for anything, I didn’t try to sell them anything. I just wanted to talk to them. And somehow this made them want to talk to me.
I’ll give you a little backstory… I was working a 9-5 job at a Web Marketing Agency in Maryland. I had attempted to take my position remote, and failed. I was working 12-14 hour days on the regular and it was making me miserable. In addition to the fact that I would go to sleep thinking horrible things about mean clients, I knew that I wasn’t living the type of life I always pictured for myself.
Traveling 10 days a year and maxing out PTO in the process just wasn’t cutting it.
Enter, The Four Hour Work Week. I won’t dive into the book in this post, but let’s just say it’s a game changer. For me and millions of other people who have fantasized about slow travel and being their own boss.
So there I was, riding the Tripper Bus back to D.C., after spending New Years Eve in New York with my friends, when I finished the 4HWW. It clicked in THAT moment. My life would be drastically different in 6 months and I knew it.
Anyone who has ever had one of those "holy shit" clarity moments (some people call them "aha moments") knows what I'm talking about. From that moment on everything just seemed to fall into place.
I recently heard it referred to has "Pronoia." Instead of thinking that the universe is conspiring against you, instead you feel like the universe is conspiring to help you.
Fast forward a few weeks later, I had started throwing money at any info product or online community that would take me. Digital Nomad Academy led to Location Rebel, led to CopyHour. And ultimately, the DC.
Often those communities are targeted towards newbs who want to start a business and quit their jobs to travel. Ideally working 4 hours a week on a mostly passive-income-generating business. (Of course that’s not how it works for most people).
The DC was different though. I had to have a business to get in! That made me want it more. I knew if I just got into this community that everything would change.
So the only logical next step was to befriend everyone I could who was inside the forum and hope for the best. Hope that I could learn from them enough to get my own thing going and get accepted.
I took to twitter and started following everyone I could. Note: once you’re inside the entrepreneurial, location-independent, internet marketing world, you realize how small it really is. This is probably true for most subcultures.
It was pretty easy for me to see who was connected to who, and actually where in the world they were living.
Following Sean Ogle of Location Rebel (and a former Tropical MBA/ DC Intern) led me to Derek Johanson of Copy Hour. Derek was in the DC at the time and seeing who he was chatting with on Twitter led me to a whole slew of people.
There was a big DC contingent in Chiang Mai back then, so I started following anyone who was using the DC Chiang Mai hashtag. It snowballed.
Maneesh Sethi was another person I began following through Derek and one day I saw he was hosting a meet up in New York. Derek Johanson would be there, along with Derek Halpurn and some other people that were doing business online.
As if I needed an excuse to skip work and go to New York….
2 Days later, I took a half day from work and hopped the train to NYC. I was the only female at this meet up of successful internet entrepreneurs. I was the only person who didn’t have a business. And guess what? It didn’t matter.
We drank beers, we talked travel, and to this day I still count some of those people as friends.
A couple weeks later Derek referred me to the DC (along with another person that I’d connected with on Twitter) and I was in! I finally got to give them my money and pretend I was an entrepreneur. All of a sudden my conversations were moving from Twitter to inside the forums, and people were treating me like they knew me.
A few weeks after that, the creators of the DC posted a job opportunity for the Community Manager. I applied, and because of my twitter stalking networking, they already knew who I was. My ability to connect with people across the world who had no idea who I was made them think, "hey maybe she's good with people?" A pre-req for managing them, it would seem.
So I got the job. (I hope you saw that coming. So much build up and all...)
And 2 weeks later I moved to Vietnam.
Not really, that was just the beginning. But it was a start that would not have come to fruition if I hadn't used the resources available to me to MAKE SHIT HAPPEN.
If you want something, don't be scared to do unconventional things to make it happen.
I didn't have a business. It didn't stop me.
I didn't know anyone living the life I wanted. It didn't stop me. It was out there. I had read it in a book (!) and that was enough for me to get started.
I may have had an advantage, in that I've always been comfortable getting to know people virtually (my AIM game was strong in my youth) but the reality is that anyone can do this.
Here are 3 tips to start networking on twitter today:
1. Find the right people to follow
Understanding who you want to be talking to (and why) is step one. In my situation, I just wanted to talk to people who were doing what I wanted to be doing. Who were living where I wanted to be living.
I could tell who was influential, and who would be likely to respond, based on their tweets with other people. It may sound like a lot of work (and perhaps creepy) to go through people's twitter history, but I assure you it's worth it. Some of those original tweets I sent were to people I have since lived with and become best friends with. We've seen each other in countries all over the world, and it all started with a single tweet.
Follow people who look like they will engage in conversation!
2. Retweet. Retweet. Rinse. Repeat.
Retweeting content of people you follow is one of the quickest ways so show them that you're interested in what they have to say, and you're willing to share it. If you're uneasy about sending them a tweet, and they haven't yet followed you back for you to send a DM, start by retweeting.
Be sure to balance retweets with original content of your own. If people do take note of you, you want your twitter log to have show some representation of who you are. Avoid looking like a retweeting robot.
3. Learn their lingo.
If you're naturally a sarcastic person, but the people you follow seem to be more literal, avoid banter in the early stages. On the other hand, if people you want to connect with seem to respond well to humor and wit, offer it up freely. Give people a reason to bond with you. 140 characters is not a lot, so use every one of them wisely.
If you combine these tactics, and are able to offer up some value to the people you're looking to connect with, you'll be ahead of the game.
I'd love to hear stories of how other people have used Twitter in a bold way to make strides in their business, or in their life. Leave a comment below or send me an email to tell me about it!