Look! Advertising!
Just like my blog!

I had an interesting experience today.

As many of you know, some of these posts are reprinted on AnnArbor.com — the electronic successor to the former print newspaper, the Ann Arbor News. I post two articles a week, Mondays and Thursdays. Today something a little different happened. The editors decided to promote today’s article to the home page. Suddenly my post, which would have been buried in the “Passions and Pursuits” section, was out on the front page (admittedly, below the electronic fold). That meant a serious increase in the number of readers.

Yay, me! Right?

Well, it was definitely pretty cool, I won’t deny that. The downside was that with the increase in exposure was a commensurate increase in the number of (apparently) grouchy people who viewed my article.

The post was the one about “bait and switch” networking — you know, the practice of inviting someone to an event or one-to-one, ostensibly for networking and developing relationships, when in reality the goal is to sell to them. A few of the folks who commented pointed out that my article was a perfect example of this as it purported to be a news story when in reality it was a thinly disguised advertisement for my company.

Huh. Well, I guess they caught me on that one.

If I thought they would listen, I would try to explain that in most advertising, the name of the product or company should probably a bit more prominent than appearing in the four-line bio at the end of the article.

Still, yes, I will be honest. One of the motives behind my articles there (and my radio spots and my blog and my speaking engagements) is to get my name out there as someone who knows a little bit about the topic of networking. In order to do that honestly, I make an effort every day to provide value to anyone who wants to listen or read, with no expectation of a monetary (or any other) return on my efforts.

Ultimately, for those who do aspire to be great networkers, that is something they must do. They can’t hoard their knowledge and skill until someone is willing to pay for it. They have to be willing, to some extent at least, to give it away for free. Whether it’s writing, speaking, volunteering, passing referrals, or even just listening, they have to think of others first. That’s what creates the connections which form a great network.

So, for the few commenters who called me out on my “hypocrisy”: Thank you. Thank you for giving me material for another of my manipulative and underhanded articles on the Art of Networking.

Photo credit: Jakob Montrasio