Now, I am all for connecting people to other people. I enjoy networking and it is super fun to connect good people to each other. However, what I do not appreciate are violations of social capital etiquette – whom I will deem the violators, or the Robber Barons of Social Capital (RBSC). (And no, greed isn’t good in this case, social Gordon Gekkos of the world!) Here’s how to avoid being branded as a RBSC:
1. Give a favor before you ask for a favor. Always ask, “What can I do for you?” However, don’t let this become a one sided habit with your social network. Make sure you keep things even keeled. Some will try and take advantage of your social network by always asking for a connection without giving up anything in return. Beware, this is the hallmark sign of a RBSC. If the habit perpetuates, shut the RBSC down by giving them nothing. Eventually, they will move on to other pastures.
2. Remember, if you ask for a favor, you have made a social capital withdrawal from that person. Do your utmost best to return the favor, stat. If you ask the person who has done something for you how you can help them and they say nothing at that very moment…remember, you still have a debit with them. Make sure you turn it into a credit ASAP by helping them when they need it, to the very best of your ability. Don’t get too far into the hole with that person–good social capitalists have long memories.
3. Provide value back to your social network. All the networking gurus state this, but it is worth repeating…again.
4. Always thank your network and pals who help you out. You don’t need to pass out gold bars, but you do need to send a note, send them an article they will enjoy, or just check in and ask them how they are and what if anything they need.
5. Follow up. When you ask for a contact, try and follow up with that contact. Always make sure the person connecting you is known as the rock star she or he is for connecting you too. They didn’t have to do it, but they did–so make sure you give them props for it. If you don’t plan on follow up immediately, let the person know who connected you so you live up to expectations.
May no RBSCs be in your future!