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Networking for the eco-minded

Hello! I’ve had a lovely morning break from writing to climb mountains* with my great new Instagram buddy Elissa from Wanderlust People. You may remember a little while back that the Wanderlust People team contacted me for an interview. Funnily enough at the time of the interview neither Wanderlust People or myself were aware that we are all located on the Sunshine Coast. Several emails later and Elissa and I finally got to catch up. Social media and the internet has this magical power to be able to fast-track our interests to meet like minded people. Some of which, like in this case, are available right in our very backyards (Elissa is the one with a mountain in her backyard… I can just see it from my deck in the distance). We live in a time where meeting people that share our values is literally just one click away! How freaking cool is that? Anyways, despite this tech-awesomeness it is surprising to hear how often people say ‘I don’t know how to connect‘ or ‘I’m not great at networking‘. Comments that kind of lead me to this post on E-networking.

* and perfecting our ‘gazing into the distance’ poses… we did have a full range of other poses but sadly the i-phone selfie stick combo was a fail and mostly took sub-par photos of the shrubs.

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Why networking is a dirty word

This post is not covering new ground for Sustainability in Style. Back in late 2015 I wrote a post on networking called Finding Kindred Spirits, which looks at the art of networking using the term most favoured by bestselling author Susan Cain (who wrote the book Quiet). ‘Kindred Spirits’  allows one to ditch the aggressive connotations associated with the term ‘networking’. It fosters an ideal of looking at the act of finding beneficial contacts as the art of meeting a ‘kindred spirt’ rather than a marketing or self promotion venture. Which can suddenly make the idea of getting in contact with people will simmilar interests not seem so daunting. It’s like shopping for a cosy sweater for winter, or finding the first edition of your favourite childhood book at a yard sale. It should be fulfilling, exciting, and the kind of experience that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Which is why ‘networking’- a dirty, manipulative,  and needy sounding word- should be ousted when talking about the human art form of making friends. As mentioned above,  the actual process of meeting people has been covered quite extensively in the linked post. So what I kind wanted to look at today is how connect on a deeper level with your e-friends. Why? Because I get asked so often about it! Which means that others out there are likely asking the same question.

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How to ‘date’ your e-freinds

OK, for some this might be given but I’m often surprised how few people make this connection (please excuse if you read this and think ‘well duh’). My number one tip in online communications of any kind is that you need to remember that online people are real people. Gobsmacked? It’s kind of strange how social media sometimes disconnects us from the fact that most of the time (hackers, robots, spambots, Pauline Hanson excluded) the people we see and talk to online have flesh, heartbeats and things they do that aren’t attached to a device that has an internet connection or media platform. Sometimes I to go to events and chat to people who I have had online direct message discussions with, only to have them not remember a thing about it when we meet in person. Or even any recollection of talking in the first place. A fact that can come as a bit of a shock when you feel you have had a ‘connected’ e-chat. Obviously there is no personal offence taken in these circumstances (I don’t expect busy people to remember every conversation they have had), it’s just that connecting people with their passions, and remembering this connection, is important when you want to create lasting kinships. So the number one take home message from this is that if you want to date (either romantically or platonically) someone you have met online and you know they are going to be somewhere you are, learn their name and their face and try to remember one thing you have chatted about (make a note of it in your phone, a book, or commit it to memory).

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Meeting in person

Remember how your parents told you never to talk to strangers? Well when it comes to meeting kindred spirits that idea kind of gets thrown out the window. If you have built a rapport with an awesome person online who has simmilar interests to you it can be great to meet in person if the geographical opportunity arises. If you get nervous about meeting new people then choose an activity you feel comfortable with. A beverage date is always a safe bet because it has a time limit on it. One can drink tea all afternoon with the right person but generally speaking most dates for a ‘cuppa’ will result in a catch up that’s under an hour. If the talking bit makes you nervous invite them to join in a hobby. Perhaps a yoga class if you are a yogi? A documenary on a shared interest if you are a movie goer? This can be a great way to break the ice and get to know someones vibe without too much chit-chat. A no brainer is meeting the person at an event that interests you both. Fashion shows are a great place to hang out with other eco-fashion lovers and you can always talk eco/ethical fashion! The easiest way to ‘ask someone out’ is to just send them a message to say ‘Hey let me know when you are around next and have some free time and we can catch up for a chat‘ and offer your email address or alternate contact. Then you avoid any disappointment, awkwardness or a let-down because the other person has the power to get in touch with you. If they don’t then it’s no worries and you can just touch base with them again on social media in the future to say hi (if they don’t have the capacity to be anything more than a social media contact then don’t take it personally). If they do get in touch then you might have yourself a new friend!

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Online pals

More often than not you meet people who you feel like you have known forever who happen to live across the other side of the World. You hope that you will get to meet in person one day but only time will tell if this actually eventuates. In the mean time there is nothing stopping you from having that kindred spirit bond with someone you are yet to physically meet. Remember the olden days of ‘pen pals’? When you got hooked up by a friend or a distant relative to write letters (like actual paper ones) to people you have never met? No idea what I’m talking about? Then you might be too young to remember this (in this case I have one tip for you… always protect your skin from the sun… a tan’s not worth the wrinkles or cancer). Regardless of your age these pen-pal principles are the same nowadays it’s just that social media has made it WAY easier to talk to people. When you get chatting to someone interesting online try to direct message them. If you get a response there and are enjoying the chats then ask them if they would like to talk online (Skype if you want to be traditional, or you can use apps like Viber). If you aren’t into phone or video convos (these are my least fave things in the World) then you can move the conversation over to things like email (which allows you to keep in touch and keep track of the convo even if life gets in the way and delays your reply), or send little snippets of your day to others via apps like Snapchat. It’s surprising how well you can get to know someone else through these mediums and it can be wonderful support if you find yourself in a geographical location where you don’t know many people with simmilar interests.

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Business, pleasure or both?

While this post primary dissects friendships from an individual point of view the same principles extrapolate out to businesses. If you are running an e-business and want to diversify your marketing to include link ups with bloggers and other influential people or brands you can approach the art of finding kindred spirits in the same way. Despite the fact I don’t do product promotions or ambassador deals I still get loads of  generous emails on these topics. The ones that catch my eye as a person are the ones that are aware of who is behind the blog/business/cause etc and what that person stands for. If you have a product you want to sell and would like to meet with the right person, start finding the influential people in that field and approach them like they are people that you know and love. Because hopefully one day they will be someone that you know and love! Once you have made that connection (be it through working together on a paid post, interviews, they wear your product etc.) be sure to keep the lines of communication open. This doesn’t have to be time consuming. It might be something as simple as tagging them in an Insta video you know they will appreciate or sending them a snap of a funny thing you saw during your day.

How do you like to communicate online? Do you have a pet peeve? Perhaps you might like to share your favourite techniques? Spill the beans my e-friends.