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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Matt Whitman: Networking King of Halifax

Some people wonder about the point of the social networking sites, like Flickr and Twitter.  This guy, Matt Whitman from Nova Scotia gets it, and does his best to explain it to journalist Silver Donald Cameron.    

This is not a link, but an article from a mailing list I belong to that publishes SDC's excellent weekly columns on community, Canadian political science and history, sailing and life in the Maritimes.  In keeping with the spirit of the article, I'm sharing this connection with you.  


SUNDAY HERALD COLUMN September , 2009 [HH0932]


by Silver Donald Cameron

Matt Whitman leans forward over a table at a suburban Starbuck's
coffee shop, talking intensely.

"I do everything else around this," he says. "My whole role is to
connect with people not to convince anyone of anything or sell them
anything, but to connect with them."

What Matt Whitman does full time, more or less is networking,
either in person or on such social media sites as Facebook. He spends
his days in coffee shops and informal meetings, and at charitable
events. He has 4800 friends on Facebook, and I am one of them. He is
the networking king of Halifax.

I want to know how he makes a living at this. Various gurus contend
that the new social networking media Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn,
Twitter and others are fantastic new business tools. Well, I want to
know how these fantastic tools work. In my experience, sites like
Facebook are mostly a fantastic nuisance. Who cares whether someone I
barely know has just won at Texas Hold'Em Poker or Treasure Mania? If
you're going to bed now, go in peace. Why tell me about it?

Matt admits that Facebook can be a huge time-waster but such
programs keep you visible when you're otherwise engaged. While you're
in a meeting, your note on Facebook about a charitable event promotes
the charity and also brings you to the attention of 4800 friends. And
Facebook tells you who you know in common with someone else. But it's
the in-person stuff that delights Matt.

"My thing is reverse networking, which is promoting others rather
than promoting myself," he says. "If I say I'm the best, you're going
to discount it but if I tell you about my friends the lawyer, the
accountant, the barber, the mortgage broker, you might take my
advice. By not selling anything or promoting myself, I can get to
lots of people. And sooner or later, somewhere, somebody's going to
be talking about me, so I don't have to."

Two employers support all this connecting. Matt is a regional sales
manager for Sun Life, where his responsibilities include the
recruitment of new life insurance salesmen. For someone with his vast
network, that kind of recruiting is a snap. He's also "the community
outreach guy" for his church, one of 13 employees of the Stone Ridge
Fellowship in Bedford, a fast-growing Baptist congregation which is
about to open a brand-new mega-church in Lower Sackville.

"I'm an example of what a Christian business person is," he says. He
is out there all the time "spreading the Good News and getting people
into the game, getting them active." His influence shows up as
increased church attendance, and also as intensified Christian
activity in the lives of church members.

And that's another use of Facebook to "promote all the things I'm
doing on the weekends." For example -- ?

"I'm eating ribs next Saturday for testicular cancer," he says. "I
organized a five-kilometer run last Saturday for our StoneRidge
satellite site in Hubbards, and tomorrow I'm giving out Gideon Bibles
at the Busker Festival. Through Sun Life I hosted a Participaction
event to get people active again. I'm involved in the Junior Chamber,
juvenile diabetes, Junior Achievement. And the updates go to
everyone, all the time."

This reminds him of his advice to a recently-unemployed friend.

"The key is not to be self-centred. The key is to help others," he
says. "What are you doing with the 40 hours you used to work? Why
don't you go and do 40 hours of good will? Volunteer this weekend at
the Buskers, or the Pride Festival, or the Jazz Festival. If you
volunteer 40 hours a week, you'll have more job offers than you know
what to do with."

He stops, struck by an idea.

"Something good happens at every meeting. Someone will benefit maybe
not you or me, but maybe someone we know. Hmm. I've never said this
out loud before, but there are actually four dimensions. How can I
help you, and how can you help me? And how can I help your friends,
and how can you help my friends?"

He stands up. He has another meeting. And the networking king of
Halifax is never, ever late.

-- 30 --

Silver Donald Cameron
24 Armshore Drive, Halifax, NS B3N 1M5
(902)446-5577 fax (902)446-6099

"Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking." -- Antonio
Machado (a leader of the Cape Verde 1970s liberation
movement against the Portuguese) 



hpcc1 said...

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Anonymous said...

Matt is a windbag who cares only about himself and his own reputation. A large part of the business community see through his sham. The rest have their blinders on. He is what is truly wrong with many networkers, putting themselves before others.

It's too bad so many fall for his empty words.

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