Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

Photo cred: Andy Beal

A marketer’s ability to do their job relies on how well they understand their audience…

Same goes for you PR professionals. You too advertising pros!

…so unless your audience (the one you were hired to understand) consists of mostly marketers, focusing so much time and effort on them will not make you much better at your job.

One could argue that lately, many professionals are equally (or more) concerned with building their personal network as they are with being good at their job.

This is especially an issue for young communications professionals and students.

We’re just starting out, and the first thing we now learn isn’t to start studying people and marketing, it’s to use social media to network and build a personal brand.

When you focus on interacting with other communications professionals all the time, you lose touch with the people that you’re supposed to understand…the ones you’re getting paid to understand.

Learning how to reach out and engage with communications professionals will usually be very different from engaging with other people.  If you’re focusing too much on the former, you’ll quickly find yourself failing at the latter.

A communications professionals has to understand what people want, what triggers them, what turns them off, how to reach them, how to build trust with them, etc… and strictly communicating with other marketing professionals will only take you so far.

Is the value of a professional’s network starting to outweigh the value of their ability as a professional?

What happens when we focus more on meeting communications professionals than on becoming a better communications professionals?

22 thoughts on “Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

  1. David,

    This post is very relevant for me as I finish my last semester in college. When I started college, I lived in a dorm on campus and had little exposure to life outside of the University. After moving off-campus, it was like walking back into a whole new world.

    As a marketing major, my days are usually filled with marketing theory, strategy, analysis and personal branding. However, it seems at times that we lack the interaction with people outside of the b-school, like when I lived only on campus.

    Thus how can a b-school truly prepare marketers if we’re too limited in focus when we leave school?

    1. I’m certainly not pushing professionals to ignore networking. If you don’t network at all, you’ll fail just as quickly. The cliche here is balance. The balance has been shifting too much toward networking lately in my opinion.

      Learn as much as you can, before and after you graduate. Never stop learning and seeking new information. Never stop studying your audience. Continue to network, but it should come second to building your skills as a professional.

  2. David,

    I would say that social media isn’t making people bad marketers…it is the people they choose to engage with via social media.

    For instance, I am a government professional. If I only listen to other gov people, I will lose focus of the citizens I really want to connect with. The citizens are generally the ones that teach me the most. But that falls to me to cultivate and build my circle so that it isn’t just an echo chamber.

    Don’t just cut out social media…remember what your purpose for engaging is and keep building a better circle.

    1. Well said Cara,,,you’re absolutely right.

      The reason I chose social media was because that is what made this “hyper networking” possible.

      Perhaps a better title would be “Too much personal branding” or “too much networking”.

  3. I appreciate this throwdown of sorts, Dave, and the logic behind it is on point. There is definitely a major push to become connected rather than become a better marketer. I’m not really worried about students, because they have internships aimed at learning and classes to get them where they need to be in their field – I think this is especially detrimental to young pros.

    There is a lot to learn when you get our of school, but one of the first things that really hits you is that sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters (I thought that was BS while I was in school – it’s not). Is it a misplaced lesson?

    But what about the nature of social media? Who you know is often very closely related to what you know. Being connected is learning. I love having personal connections, but they have all taught me so much that it’s hard to say I’ve focused on building a personal network more than becoming better at what I do.

    Thanks for your thoughts and I see a great conversations surrounding this topic.

    1. Of all people I understand that there is much to learn from the people you know. Pretty much everything I’ve known and written about to this point as been a result of the networking that I’ve done. But I’ve reached a point where I’m finding that I have to focus less on networking, and more on taking the initiative to research and learn for myself. The amount you can learn from networking is limited.

      The problem is it IS who you know, perhaps even more so than what you know. Whether or not it makes you better at your job, focusing as much time and energy into networking will provide you with more opportunities than studying behind the scenes. In the long run though, will you be better off knowing more people or being better at your job?

      Really, the better you are at your job, the better your reputation, and your network should be. While that’s not always true, I can guarantee that if you do amazing things in your job, networking will just happen.

  4. Good post, David. I agree – sometimes we do get too caught up in following those marketing ‘influencers’ as opposed to the real consumers. The other day I noticed that most of my Twitter stream was from professionals as opposed to targeted customers that are relevant to my clients.

    @Worob
    PR at Sunrise blog – worob.com

    1. Exactly. It’s not a bad thing that you’re connecting with a lot of other professionals in your area, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only thing you’re focusing on.

      Thinking more…it’s nearly impossible to be truly creative if you’re only talking to other marketing professionals. Think about it this way:

      If you’re a fisherman, and you learn everything you know from other fisherman, you can only learn as much as they know. If you hit the books and research the hell out of fish, how they function, why they do things a certain way etc…you may be able to develop a method that no fisherman has never thought of before. Then, all the fisherman will come to you for advice.

  5. Student here. Graduates Dec 2011. My perspective-

    Duh. But also, not so ‘Duh’. As a student, working on my ‘personal brand’ or whatever it’s called is working on my marketing/pr/etc abilities. My market is potential employers. I’m interacting with them, studying them, and soaking it in.

    As I was typing this I seriously just received a DM about an ad agency wanting to talk to me about a social media internship. David, I will show it to you if you think I’m lying.

    Perfect timing. This isn’t the first. Obviously I’m doing something right. My friends are blindly mailing resumes and applications for internships, but internships are coming to me.

    At the same time, though, students need to work on MORE than their personal brand. I’m in positions with student organizations in which I am overhauling and restructuring their communications, marketing, pr, etc. to accept and use new media. This is me getting hands-on experience working with people, working with a ‘brand’ (loosely), and cultivating messages- both internal and external ones. I meet with people from other organizations I’m not affiliated with to help them with their strategies. In the college world, these are all ‘brands’ trying to reach a target market.

    The argument goes both ways. For job seekers (and future job seekers- me!), you need to network and work on your personal brand. On the other hand, if you finally get that dream interview and are asked, “what have you done?”, and you can only talk about yourself- you’re screwed.

    1. Colby,

      You should know I of all people would not downplay the value of networking. If you want a job today, you should be focusing on building a network. But here’s a scenario.

      Say there’s a young pro that networks his ass off. He gets to know everyone, reads their blogs, interacts with them, etc… He gets a job immediately.

      Then there’s another young professional. He never focused on networking too much, but he studied his ass off. He picked up every book and case study on marketing he could find. It was really tough to get an interview, but eventually he did, and impressed with his knowledge, the company gave him a job.

      Now you have two professionals, one with a stronger network, and one with stronger skills. When asked to launch a campaign for a new product, who’s going to blow it out of the water, and TRULY make a name for themselves.

      In the end, your network is more about what you’ve done, than who you’ve sought out. Do great things, and the network will follow. It won’t necessarily work vice versa.

  6. Great post. Lately I’ve found myself spending more time working/learning/dealing with clients/etc. than networking. I’ve missed it some, I guess, but it’s also good in a way. What you actually/can do is just as important as who you know.

    When you’re just starting out, you don’t know much, and like talented young basketball players, you’re “Drafted on potential. So in that case, it definitely is important to spend a lot of time networking/building your personal brand. Once you get where you want to go, you should maintain some level, but also definitely focus on doing your actual job and getting better at it.

    1. I like the comparison to basketball players. I guess young professionals are hired more for their potential than their current skills.

      I guess as you said, the important thing is to eventually start focusing more on your job and less on your network…

  7. Definitely met a lot of people like this. And boy have they tried to meet me.

    I think they focus on it because it’s easier than the actual work. The actual work is hard. Meeting people all day long is easy.

  8. Great post. I see this a lot with link building – always having potential advertisers want to ‘exchange links’ yet they have poor ranking pages, or they are not affiliated with our industry. It is a waste of both of our time. It would be interesting to read a blog from you regarding link building and your thoughts on it in a technological world.

    1. Interesting thoughts Lizzy. Personally I try not to focus on link building at all. I never do link exchanges and I rarely do link-bait type posts on this blog. I prefer the long-term, focus on quality.

      I think for link building it’s actually better to connect with other bloggers in your field though no? If you get incoming links from other marketing bloggers, that’s better than incoming links in a category that you’re not trying to rank for. Which just makes this problem that much worse.

  9. Very interesting theorie. I agree, we spend so much time on managing all those online contacts that we easily lose focus. However, when you`re just starting out in the PR industry, fresh out of college, it is crucial to build a network that you can rely on later on. It`s about promoting your own brand and social media gives you the tools to do so.

  10. Lots of websites, best suited for?Think that the, another and hence.Are sitting at, its long These.Or tree is stockmarket, of organisations and bold preferably only.Who operate a, property insurance The.,

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