The Virtual Handshake

Likely, there are people you would love to meet that inspire you and who could give your career a big push forward. More and more, you can access these people via social media – a simple web search will turn up their Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, personal blog, Flickr photos, Tumblr, Facebook profile, and the like.

Before you give them a virtual handshake, consider how much of a contribution and commitment you have made to the ecosystem they value most.

Like a handshake in real life, the manner in which you are introduced to someone is often as valuable as the handshake itself. For instance:

  • Did you shove your way through a crowd, stalk them while the person was involved in another conversation, and at the slightest opportunity, run up to them, already halfway through your elevator speech, with one hand on the stack of business cards in your pocket?
  • Or, were you introduced by a common associate, someone who is familiar to them, who they trust, and who you have established trust with as well. Have you slowly built a sense of familiarity – that you are someone who is helping to create the world they value most?

I suppose sales people delineate this as cold or warm calls – how far along are you in the sales funnel, etc. Never is this more valuable than in how we interact as a culture – because so much of what we do is based on trust.

With the advent of social media, the ‘virtual hand shake’ is a way that we come to meet each other more and more often. And building trust before the handshake is not only about who we are and what we say, but in who we know, how well we play with others, and how effectively we are building a better world.

When you consider approaching someone via social media, don’t bug them.¬†Instead, understand their world. See who they follow on Twitter, who they share links from. Find out what topics inspire them, especially the topics outside of your given market.

Understand their network. If that is the world you want to be a part of, then you need to make a commitment to the entire ecosystem, to a series of relationships, and not just rely on some pitch to get what you want.

The handshake is not the first step, it is the result of a commitment you have already made to that person, to their world, and to the common things you both care about.