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Here’s a question for you. Someone you know casually asks for your help to win an award for the book they’ve just written. How do you feel? What action, if any, do you take? Let’s bring that hypothetical situation into reality.

A few weeks back, I received the following message:

Not sure if you know about my book that was published at the end of #$%%$^& or not, it’s called “Book title redacted to ensure anonymity and spur debate about the issue and not the personality involved”. The reason I’m writing is to ask for about 5 seconds of your time to have you cast a vote for my book as it is up for an award.

You can vote 1x in a 24 hour period from 1 IP address. All you have to do is click the link below and click on vote. Voting ends December 15th.

http://somebookawardIneverheardofbutthispersonobviouslythinksisimportant.com

Any help would be greatly appreciated! :)

Thanks so much for considering!

Several weeks later, I received a second message:

Good Morning Everyone!

The reason for my email today is that my book,“Book title redacted to ensure anonymity and spur debate about the issue and not the personality involved” is up for a book award that is based on voting from the public and today is the last day for voting.  Some of you probably have voted once or a few times in the past and for that I’m so thankful and appreciative!

I wanted to ask for just a few more seconds of your time, (for the last time) if you have it –  to vote today.   It takes just less than 5 seconds to vote.  You can go and vote by going to the link below.

http://somebookawardIneverheardofbutthispersonobviouslythinksisimportant.com

I’ve had some questions about the votes.  Just an FYI you can vote from 1 IP Address in a 24 hour period, so if you have a home and work computer or a smart phone you could vote from all three.

As a thank you for your time, if you remember your vote number you can enter to win 1 of two signed books.  Just go to this form (http://unknownentryform.com) to enter.

Thanks for considering helping me out, I really appreciate it!

I thought long and hard about the visceral reaction I had to these two messages. There are two issues I have with the messages:

  • First, I have no real relationship with the person who sent these messages. We are “connected” on a social networking service, but that connection is quite loose. I’m fairly certain that this person wouldn’t recognize me in a busy airport. If we were connected more closely, then I could see being included in the group that received this message. I’m not certain I would have voted for the book, but at least it would make more sense. I can say this as a drop dead certainty, had I written a book I would never have approached this person with a plea for help. I just don’t know them that well. Having never really added value to them, why would I expect them to reciprocate?
  • Second, I don’t like the gaming aspect of the “award”. I have a real distaste for any award or contest that allows for multiple votes. The once a day voting mechanism used above is particularly awful because it rewards gaming even more than usual.  Generally, when I encounter contests set up in this manner, two things cross my mind.  First, it is evident to me that the contest is more about about the publisher gaining page views than actually determining merit.  Second, I generally do not participate, because my lowly SINGLE VOTE won’t really count for much when the contest is set up to reward gaming through multiple votes.

The most ironic aspect of these two messages is that the first inquiry came exactly two days after I unfollowed this person on twitter. I had been going through the list of people I followed but who had not reciprocated, and was culling the people whom I saw little or no value from in the Twitter stream.  This person fell into that category and so was unfollowed.  In fact my unfollow of this person was something I agonized over a little bit prior to pushing the button.

Key Learnings

Having thought about this for a few weeks now, I have three main takeaways from this incident I’d like to share with you.

  • Build your network before you need it. It has been said many times before by me and many others: If you start building your network the day you realize you need it, you’re too late.  Networking (online and off) is something that must be done regularly and frequently.
  • Deepen your connections by adding value to your network as often as practicable. There is a fine line between frequency and spam (and the line broadens when the content offered is valuable – but value is in the eye of the recipient). Also, be sure to check in personally with each member of your network periodically. Obviously, the larger the network the more difficult this is. It is worth the effort.
  • You never know WHEN you’ll need your network most, so start building today! Add value by sharing what you know and who you know with your networks. The day you most need your network could be a day away or years away – and that day is completely unpredictable and unknowable to you. So get to work today!

What’s your take on this situation?  Would you have helped this person out by voting for the book? Is my reaction to these types of contests too harsh? What’s your top networking tip?

I leave you with one final plea…if you know the person that sent the above messages, please do not call them out in person in the comments section. This post is about the idea, and the notion, not the personality. I’m not interested in name calling or making a run at individual people or personalities. After all, this is all just my opinion, and I could be very wrong. This blog is not about calling people out or about being negative for negativity sake, but about looking for solutions. Thanks, in advance, for your cooperation.

Featured image courtesy of bansidhe licensed via Creative Commons.

 

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Sean McGinnis

Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct
Sean McGinnis is Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct. He is also a (digital strategist, blogger, consultant ) and public speaker. You can find Sean on