The Social Networking Courtship

by Paul Castain on April 27, 2011

You scan the room cautiously and there, like a diamond in the ruff is someone you feel compelled to approach. Mustering every ounce of courage, you walk bravely across the crowded, noisy room, rehearsing your lines and getting yourself “in the zone” It all seems rather surreal, (like in Wayne’s World when Wayne approached Tia Carrere to the theme of “Dream Weaver”). You confidently tap this person on the shoulder, look them in eye and say “We don’t know each other, but would you marry me?”

I’ll let you finish the story in your own “Theater of the mind” style, but I’m guessing in this case the guy doesn’t get the girl?

In the spirit of beating up the obvious . . . Why?

Aside from not knowing each other, there has been no conversation, no establishing of mutual likes/dislikes, a first date, trust and about a million other elements which comprise a relationship.

All in all, a ridiculous scenario but not too uncommon if you ask me. I not only see it every day on Social Networking venues, I’ve been the receiver of these proposals.

Some examples of what I’m talking about:

Someone “@” me on Twitter several times wanting an appointment to discuss my company’s social media strategy. Innocent enough, but I don’t know this person, our paths have never crossed, we have never shared “tweets” or have had any interaction. Probably not a good initial contact strategy, but to each their own.

When you accept someone as a “friend” and they immediately launch into a sales pitch.

You’re in a group discussion on Linkedin and someone sends you a private email about how their company is the bestest company in the whole world and can help you with that thing you happen to be discussing.

There’s a change taking place in the way many people want to do business. It wasn’t so long ago, that two people would do business with each other and the relationship would form after the transactions began. That’s when you would really get to know them. That’s when this crazy thing called “trust” would enter the picture. The trend now seems to be the exact opposite. People want to get to know you, and trust you on that type of level BEFORE doing business with you.

For the sake of clarity, I’m not talking about due diligence. That’s always existed. I’m talking about the relationship part of the process. It really seems to have been front ended to a much higher degree.

I believe there are several reasons for this:

Our current economy has buyers more concerned with risk than ever before. A bad choice is viewed as “raising your hand in class” and the fear is that they could be the next person cut from the organization.

Its easier and safer to begin online. It’s easier in that there’s an immediacy in Googling, checking a profile, a blog etc. If someone has an online presence, they have in essence, “left a trail” for us to learn about them. It’s safer in that we can sort of “lurk” anonymously.

Its safer in that if we become “friends” and if for some reason there becomes a discomfort in that “friendship” we can un friend, unfollow, ignore, delete etc.

There is a huge cultural shift due to more and more Generation Y’s moving into decision making/influencing positions. They prefer more online, virtual interaction as part of their process.

We can go on and on, but I think you get the point.

So here’s the million dollar question folks . . .

If what we’re talking about here is in fact a “courtship”, how do you “court” your network or should we just say screw it and elope?

To learn more about how you can hire Paul Castain as your coach . . . click here!

  • Thank you Larry . . . and its been wonderful getting to know you via our various “courtships” on Linkedin and Twitter my brother from another mother! 🙂

  • Paul you’ve hit the nail on the head — again.

    Those instantaneous launches into their sales pitch. Starting out a relationship by “now that we’re BFFs simply because you are following me, let me tell you even MORE about ME” followed by can you go directly to my LinkedIn page, my blog and my website to learn even MORE about ME. That it’s all about ME thing is totally off-putting. Trust me, I’ll get there if I want to be there. But can’t a girl at LEAST order her dinner before the “let’s go to my place” thing starts? Sheesh!

    Gen Y and their preference for on-line interaction before considering purchasing anything style is truly a factor in the way relationships are changing. I think too that it’s not just in sales, but in our culture as a whole. But that’s a whole other post.

    Any true relationship, whether on or offline, is a two-way street that takes time to grow – ALWAYS.

    Wishing you a great day – I remain,

    Virtually Yours,

  • I laughed out loud at the “can’t a girl at LEAST order her dinner before the ‘let’s go to me place’ comment because its right on the money.

    Thanks for weighing in on this Anne-Marie!

  • Dknoedler

    We “court” our network by continually sharing valid data, listening to the feedback and learning/understanding the network needs. We never rush the “courtship.” Thanks for asking, Debbie

  • That’s a good question Bruce . . . it needs to be directed at everyone because our workforce is now experiencing increased levels of multi generational buyers and sellers.

    And speak for yourself about “old timers” I’m really in my late twenties with a bad hairline 🙂

  • That’s a great point when you say “we never rush the ‘courtship'” that’s when the online breakups occur.

    Thanks Debbie!

  • Chris

    Paul – I really enjoyed this article and your Virtual 1st Impression one – thanks to the group member that posted it to the LinkedIn group.

    I’m not looking for marriage but maybe a “friends with benefits” relationship. I try to connect with people on LinkedIn where there is a great possibility of mutual benefit. I’ve changed my “Add to network” request to read something like “I think we could be beneficial connections, here’s how you can gain from becoming a contact, check out my profile to see if you agree”.

    People seem to appreciate the upfront honesty, the effort in showing how they benefit and the fact that I’m not giving them a hard sell right at the get go. I’m not like a peacock strutting around saying look at me – I’m the best. I’m more like an owl – okay to look at, serves a definite purpose and can be very wise.

    Whoooooooo yeah!!!!!



  • I agree!

    Owls rock Chris . . . always bet on the owl 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • John Patrick

    Courtship focuses on a slow-maturing relationship. Getting to know the one you’re courting requires you to ask questions, be transparent, to engage and to be willing to be transparent. It’s easy enough to dress up and “pretend” when on a date, but courtship allows each to get to see the real person … good, bad and ugly.

    Adding value though content, willingness to connect and one-directional giving becomes the flowers, candy and dinner that, over time, may lead to “want to see my etchings?” And, if not, both parties should be better off for having invested in each other.

  • Paul.. today in 2011 I am going to hazard a guess that 99% of people would respond with their plan to “court”. The problem is life gets in the way, and we all get distracted. What starts with good intentions turns in to some variation of “screw it and elope”. It would be interesting to see survey results of how many people “properly court” vs. looking for some shortcuts (ie eloping)

  • Carol Kappes

    Loved your article.  You are right!  The Generation Y is very online, and although some of the new “courtship” ideas is done so that they know the person’s background and also they want a lasting relationship.  This is why they are delaying marriage.
    They also have an idea that when they do begin business, it’s in it for the long haul.  I believe that they will want a stable work environment as well once they are able to have a job.
    Yes, with this new technology, the approaches to the way things had been done are going to be more different in the future.  Great article:)

  • Very well said Carol and thank you so much for the kind words too!

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