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Nine ways to grow your network (without spamming)

How to make friends and influence people: avoid spamming and follow these tips to grow your network authentically and organically

Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Elon Musk is seeking to address spam accounts on Twitter but spam is everywhere

Nobody seems to know how much spam there is out there but, according to some reports, between 45 and 85 percent of all email is “irrelevant or unsolicited” – aka spam.  

And it’s not just via email. I’ve recently started receiving spam on LinkedIn and WhatsApp too. 

Spam is invariably from somebody with whom I have zero connections, about a subject in which I have zero interest and, worst of all, the person never makes any attempt to communicate with me like a human being (maybe because on some occasions they’re actually bots). 

I’m sure this kind of communication is cheap to do, but it also cheapens the brand of the person who sent it and any organisation they’re connected to.

It’s the online equivalent of shouting at people walking past you in the street and is likely to be damaging to your reputation.

But don’t stop reaching out to strangers – how else do we make friends? Instead follow these tips to grow your network authentically and organically so that it’s of real use in challenging times. 

1 Personalise your approach

If you’re asking a stranger to give up even a minute of their time to connect with you, the least you can do is call them by their name and learn something about them.

Personalised approaches will always get more attention and, although it may take a little bit of time, the results will be worth it. 

2 Find some common ground

When doing your research it’s likely you’ll see some connections in common with the person you want to talk to.

If it’s not a person it might be a school or location or interest. That kind of common ground can be a useful starting point. If you’ve nothing in common, then at least try to find a link. 

3 Offer something useful

Nobody likes to feel used, so think about what you can offer the other person. Maybe they posted a survey you can complete or wrote an article you could comment on?

4 Say something nice

Everybody likes to be complimented, so find something nice to say about the person you want to connect with. Maybe you found an article they wrote or a video they posted useful? Tell them! But…

5 Don’t lie

Although flattery seems to work even when we know it’s insincere, lying is never a good idea and is likely to poison the relationship you are trying to build. Instead…

6 Be upfront about what you want

It’s reasonable to want to connect with somebody because of their role or expertise but be reasonable in your “ask”, too.

It’s not acceptable to expect somebody you don’t know to give you an hour of their time with no good reason. Explain why your new contact should do something. 

7 Don’t “neg”

Negging is making a deliberate rude remark or backhanded compliment with the intention of making the other person feel bad, thus increasing their need for the “negger’s” approval.

In a work context this could be generic messages telling potential customers their website is underperforming, or that they could have thousands more followers on social media if only they upped their game. They are unlikely to win you the kind of customers you really want.

If your approach doesn’t work in real life, don’t do it on the internet. 

8 Don’t beg

Begging is the opposite of negging. You’ll see it in the “polite reminder” email or from the world-renowned expert who, although constantly touting their huge financial success, still finds time to contact you every three weeks just to check in and see whether you’ve made a decision to move ahead with the project. 

9 Keep it short, but don’t try to sneak things in

People are busy and many of us find our attention span increasingly limited so get to the point. Don’t add links or attachments in a first communication unless it’s a freebie.

Remember we live in a digital world but we’re still humans and react better when treated as such.

Individuals make decisions and individuals create connections. No matter what your industry is, or whether you’re selling B2B or B2C, this remains true. 

Dawn Metcalfe is a Dubai-based workplace culture advisor

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