You Might Be Guilty of These BIG Mistakes (and Not Even Know It!)

Woman on phone and keyboard

2015 is all about risk and discovery. In part one we discussed the first level of risk, which must take place internally. Now, in part two we will take a look at the second level of risk: Taking action on those dreams through building relationships.

Have you ever been the recipient of a request that was far beyond what the relationship would support? For example, I had someone I barely know ask me to get an endorsement from one of my fairly famous clients. This was a HUGE request, one that I might fulfill for a BFF, or someone else equally important to me, but I just couldn’t justify spending my own social capital with this famous author and speaker for someone I hardly know.

This actually told me quite a lot about the person making the request. It told me that she hasn’t yet mastered the ways in which the world has changed in recent years, namely the importance of building “social capital”. Never before has taking the time to build relationships been as important as it is today. Networking has always been a foundational element for success in business, and maybe back in the day when we were only able to meet our distant colleagues and associates at conventions and conferences, her request would have been appropriate. However, now that we live in an open, connected world, there is zero excuse for not taking the time to build that relationship via social capital (in this case with me), before asking for a big request. It is an absolute requirement and surprisingly, many people still don’t get it. Lois Frankel, who is a workplace expert once said, “The time to build a relationship is before you need it.” Never have truer words been spoken.

What exactly is social capital and how do you build it? Social capital can be described as The Law of Reciprocity,  which social psychologists say basically means that when someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. Another way of saying it is with The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Online, this can mean “liking” a Facebook post, or commenting on a blog post, or sharing helpful information that will help others in some way. When you do this, an unspoken feeling of reciprocity comes into play. Others will feel some obligation toward you.

One caveat: The Law of Reciprocity will not work if it is used to exploit some tactic in order to get someone to buy from you or do something for you. People can smell that sort of disingenuous behavior a mile off.

There are lots of other ways to build social capital offline too. We’re familiar with attending local events, reaching out to others and meeting for coffee or lunch. Face to face always wins over online. However, in our open world we now have connections all over the globe. In most cases, meeting for coffee simply isn’t an option, so then what?

Seven Simple Steps for Building Social Capital with Others:

  • Make a list of people you would like to get to know and do some research. What platforms are they on? Where do they spend their time? What kind of information do they share publically?
  • Send them an invitation to connect. Be sure to make the invitation personal. Don’t just send the default note that says, “I’d like to connect with you.” How boring is that?! Let some of your personality shine through in your invitation. So few people take the time to do this; You will stand out.
  • If connecting on twitter, no invitation is needed. You can simply follow them and see what they’re up to. Retweet what they’ve posted when it speaks to you. Respond to them with a tweet back.
  • “Like” and comment on their posts. All of us appreciate it when someone takes the time to comment. We notice these things, and sometimes we notice when certain people don’t comment. Be seen as someone who is aware and helpful. Take the time to share with your friends too.
  • Add to the conversation by engaging and really bringing somthing to the table. Yes, it’s nice to just “like” but when you add to it, you stand out more. You’ll know it’s having some impact when they “like” or comment back.
  • Take the time to ask them what you can do for them? How can you help? What kind of clients or customers are they looking for. Refer people.
  • If you’re successfully building social capital with them and you have their attention, then you might want to suggest a Skype call or maybe a get acquainted phone call. You could offer a suggestion for them that would be helpful to their business, offer some of your time to answer any questions. Again, this isn’t for business per se, although that may happen. It really is to get on their radar screen and develop the relationship. Look at this as a long-term strategy for relationship building.

Remember: Give first before you ask to “get”. When it is time to ask for something from this relationship, it is a risk. The person may say no, but then again, he or she may say yes, and who knows what new discoveries you will make then.

If the woman who had asked me for an endorsement from my client had taken some or all of these steps before she made her request, if she had reached out on social media with an invitation to connect, had she continued to build social capital with me, had she shared some information that might be helpful in my business, I might have been willing to fulfill her request. Instead, she wanted to get before giving. It really doesn’t work…especially in this day and age.

I have a very short video clip here on the importance of building relationships if you’d like to take a peek.


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