The Right Way to Network on Social Media - Work in Sports Podcast e43

By Brian Clapp | January 29, 2018

There is a right way and a wrong way to network on social media, we're going to explain the right way, right now.

Hi, I'm Brian Clapp, Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast!

I think it's about time we talked about networking on social media, a great tool and opportunity that not enough people use.

James P inspired the conversation with his question:

Do you think it's necessary to add professional information to personal Twitter and Facebook accounts if their intended use is personal? I thought LinkedIn's purpose was to highlight professional experiences but am finding more people tailor their personal profile on other platforms to what they are doing professionally. (i.e where they work and their role) I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.Your Sports Career Questions Answered

I’m going to get there, but let’s go here first. I want to do a more all-encompassing strategy on social media networking.

Now, there is going to be a lot of info in here, so you may need to listen twice or take some notes – anyone who has heard me speak before knows that I throw out a lot of detail in not a lot of time, which is a nice way of saying, I talk fast when I get excited. It’s the east coast in me.

Plus, I come from a talkative family and if you ever wanted to get a word in you had to say it fast or Aunt Kate would blow right past you. Love ya!

Enough chatter, lets get this rolling.

Before we get into how let’s talk about where.

I get invites to new social channels weekly – but I tend to focus on a few. You can’t be everywhere. Actually let me change that, you can’t be everywhere and still be authentic. You can’t be the real you everywhere. There isn’t enough time. You end up copy and pasting or automating or not responding to people…it’s messy.

I also think, if Google couldn’t really get a social network off the ground, why should I worry about some new property that isn’t google. If the next Instagram comes along, I’m sure I’ll hear about it later, I don’t need to be the early adopter everywhere. Part of being successful is knowing where to allocate your time.

My point is, I tend to look at social as different silos. LinkedIn is where 90% of my business/branding/networking social activities take place. Facebook is more personal connections. Twitter is more in the “sports moment” interaction. Everything has a role.

Sure I network some on Twitter, and I do some personal chatter on LinkedIn, and I have a private Facebook group that is awesome for engaging with all of you. But, I kind of fell like everything has a purpose and order in my social world.

Oh and I’m 43, which makes me officially too old for snapchat – you’re welcome.

But let’s get back to LinkedIn for a second:

  • They have 300 million+ members all there to with the goal of building their professional network

  • Personally caress your professional identity

  • Interact with groups that share the same business and career interests as you

  • Access business related articles from thought leaders and companies

More importantly, there is less BS to sift through. It is more targeted. It is more focused. And you feel less dirty and wasteful after you spend an hour or two on it. (Can you tell I’m a fan?)

I think if you are looking for a place to use social networking in sports, this is it.

But how? Yes that is the big question, how do you do it.

Before we get into the mechanism of how, you need to get over a few things in your brain.

When I was in college there were so many things I didn’t do because I was afraid, but I masqueraded around as being too cool.

Professors says I should write an article for the school newspaper…on the outside I’m saying to people “that’s lame, let’s go out instead” but on the inside I’m thinking “what if they hate it? what if they say I’m a terrible writer? what if they laugh at me?” I was paralyzed by my insides, all the while exhibiting some cocky facade on the outside.

What a fraud.

Here’s why I bring this up – What’s the worst thing that will happen if you start trying to network with people on social media? Some people will never respond. Who cares? Seriously who cares?! Get over this. Now.

You are going to reach out to people and they are going to ignore your request – chances are they don’t check LinkedIn that often, or they had a death in the family, or something completely unrelated to you. So don’t take it personally. Or, they looked at your picture and thought – no thanks.

That can happen too… but again, who cares? This says more about them than you so get over it.

Social is the easiest hurdle to overcome – you aren’t standing in front of the person begging to be liked, you are clicking buttons and typing words.

You know how many people have judged me on social media? No? How could you – guess what, neither do I. I don’t know if when I ask someone for an interview for the podcast if they are thinking…oh god, not this loser or if they are thinking – yes I love this guy! So if I don’t know how they feel why would I waste time worried about how they will feel about me? I’m no fortune teller.

So now that we’ve gotten you over any fear, or any stubborn reliance on being cool, let’s talk how.

I got a LinkedIn request this week from Natalie Gray a student at Lindenwood University, where I spoke last week.

Natalie wrote:

Hi Brian! I am in Dr. Sweeney's Orientation to Sports Management class at Lindenwood University and I just wanted to thank you for taking time to not only create your podcasts on your website but also coming into our class last Thursday to speak with us. I have only listened to a few of your podcasts so far but I have learned so much about the sports industry that I never would have thought of otherwise. I am very interested and excited about pursuing a career in sports someday and this new information is and will be very valuable to me.

And there it is people – perfect social correspondence. Let’s break this down a bit.

1: The rule of engagement for social media – have a purpose with every social engagement.

This wasn’t a form letter, it was personalized. There was some reason for me to read it, some hook that connected her with me. She heard me speak, she likes the podcast, she’s learned from the experience and she wants to connect.

Now, to deepen that relationship, I would, if I was Natalie, or any of you out there, after the person accepts the connection, wait a few days and come back with a question. Nothing too hard, or too long or too in depth. Something you think is in their wheelhouse, and they will be excited to answer. For me you could ask a follow up question to a podcast interview, or something about my career experience, whatever.

Find an angle to converse with the person, in an easy like Sunday morning fashion – not a 4 paragraph dissertation. I get those sometimes and it’s like “aaargh, I want to help but this is too much!”

Something like – “I listened to your podcast on the difference between hard skills and soft skills – I was wondering as someone interested in sports marketing, do you have any suggestions for developing my hard skills?”

Whew. I can handle that. That is different than a life story email.

What you don’t want to do is ask for a job, or a referral or a connection. Not yet. Hold your horses. You are not in a position to ask anything of this person other than advice. I get asked for referrals all the time, right after meeting someone, and it really bothers me. You know why, because if someone recommends someone else who they don’t really know – that breaks the entire system. It’s all a fraud now, nothing is trustworthy and believable.

I want to think if someone recommends someone to me, that they are legit and so is the recommendation. You feel me?

2: Deepening the relationship – Another way to deepen the connection is to be visible in their world. Do they share articles? Like them, share them. Do they run a group? Comment and share in there. You’ll get noticed for being in the right spots.

I could list 10-15 people right off the top of my head who are active and engaged where I am, and I notice… I notice you Kelsey Smith and Kirsten Nelson and James Price and Sunil Sunder Raj, and the list can go on.

3: The final point I want to to make is on the purpose of connecting. Stop treating networking like a to do list assigned by your professor.  Do not just go through the motions.

I get many requests per day to connect, and then never hear from the person again. What was the point of that? Are you trying to artificially increase your connections? What the heck does that achieve?

This is not networking on social media. This is artificially inflating your connections to make you feel like you accomplished something.

Don’t just go through the motions. This is a quality game, not a quantity game. If you have 3,000 connections who don’t know anything about you, what’s the point. I’d rather have 10 really deep connection that will advise guide and recommend things to you.

So in conclusion – I never answered James’ question – because I get fired up about stiff and go off on tangents. That’s what I do.

James ---

Also, do you think it's necessary to add professional information to personal Twitter and Facebook accounts if their intended use is personal? I thought LinkedIn's purpose was to highlight professional experiences but am finding more people tailor their personal profile on other platforms to what they are doing professionally. (i.e where they work and their role) I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

Most people I know and interact with keep personal and business separate. I do this. I have Facebook accounts for business, and then another one that is personal. I have the same for Twitter. I’d keep it that way.

That said, employers will find you on social. They will research you and look through as much of your personal stuff as they can. So be smart, if you think to yourself – this could hurt me on an interview, don’t hit send. It’s like approaching an intersection and the light turns yellow. If you have to pause and think….should I go? That’s enough to tell you …no, you should stop. If you have to think – should I post this? That’s your sign…time to back away from the keyboard.

Alright, I think I’ve said enough for today. Wednesday, very excited to publish my interview with Jeff Altstadter, Director of Public Relations for the USGA – we talk crisis communication, managing big events, working with players and so much more! Tune in.

That is the end of this program.

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