Do you know your neighbors?
Sean and I know a couple of ours—but most are strangers.
At this point in time, not knowing your neighbors is pretty common. We mind our own business. We go about our own lives. We rarely intersect with the people around us–which is even more true today when we are not supposed to be intersecting with people outside of our own households!
Most of the time this is fine, right? Maybe it’s not ideal. But it’s fine.
It becomes a problem when there’s a need. Maybe you just need to borrow a cup of milk. Or maybe you’ve got to leave town for a month to care for a family member. Maybe there’s an extended power outage in town.
Who can you rely on?
This week, we’re wrapping up our series on relationship-building. We’ve looked at your relationship with yourself & your business, your relationship with your customers, and your relationship with your team. Now, it’s time to examine your relationship with your network. All the neighbors in your neighborhood, if you will.
So as I just alluded to…
Getting to know your neighbors is a disaster preparedness skill.
I heard Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown talk about this on the How To Survive The End of The World pocdast. Autumn said—and I’m paraphrasing because I have no idea which episode it was in—when you know who is around you, you have a better idea of how you can care for each other. You’re more likely to seek out community-based solutions when things go awry.
This idea has stuck with me. Partly because I heard it while walking through my neighborhood of strangers in the middle of an ongoing global health crisis. And partly because it got me thinking about my “internet neighbors.”
It probably comes as no surprise that I am a huge proponent of getting to know your internet neighbors. And by that, I mean the people who are closely adjacent to you in your industry, in groups you belong to, and in the social media platforms you frequent.
I feel lucky that I got on social media before we’d optimized our tactics and sliced & diced the amount of time we spend actually getting to know people in those channels. I really got to know my internet neighbors in those early years. We had each other’s backs. When something bad happened, we could come up with a solution together.
We knew each other so much more than just as personal brands or headshots.
I think it’s legitimately harder to get to know your internet neighbors today–despite it being more important than ever.
So few people are actively engaging with social media. They’re planning & scheduling their content and then getting the hell off the platform.
In her book, Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino writes, “On the internet, a highly functional person is one who can promise everything to an indefinitely increasing audience at all times.” That’s not advice—by the way. It’s a warning. And it’s one of the reasons why our internet neighborhoods feel so foreign and impersonal.
Social media has taught us to be flat, to optimize our identity, to be as consistent as possible for as long as possible.
In other words, we rarely have the chance to actually get to know someone as a human being. To get to know your neighbors, you have to be willing to be real. To be multi-dimensional. To admit you have needs. It takes time and a little vulnerability—but it’s worth it.
Getting to know your internet neighbors is key to your long-term success, even if it feels like it’s time better spent elsewhere in the short-term. Your internet neighbors might not have a cup of sugar for your weekend baking binge, but they do have critical and creative thinking skills. They have a like or a share when you need one. They have connections and skills and ideas.
And of course, you have your own contributions to make to the relationship too.
Getting know your internet neighbors does not mean following them on Instagram or subscribing to their newsletter—those are good ways to get started but it’s not what really makes for a relationship. Instead, take over a plate of internet cookies. Invite them over for internet game night. Learn more about their internet family and offer to check their mail when they go on internet vacation.
In other words, we need to go beyond transactional online networking and get back to building real relationships—organic, friendly, neighborly ones.
There is no one I know who is better at this than Shannon Siriano Greenwood. I met Shannon through our mutual friend Racheal Cook, invited her on this podcast, spoke at her conference, and then started producing her new podcast.
Shannon is the founder of Rebelle, which up until last March hosted semiannual conferences and monthly networking events in Richmond, VA. Now, Shannon has taken the Rebelle community virtual and hosts virtual conferences and online gatherings for women who want to play by their own rules.
I have to admit—I was a bit skeptical of Shannon at first. All I knew about Rebelle was that they were celebrities… like real celebrities, not internet celebrities. And, my uninformed assumption was that people who knew celebrities and asked them to speak at their events probably were not super genuine or “real” people.
From the moment I started actually talking to Shannon, though, I realized how wrong I had been.
This woman is the real deal. She is warm, genuine, and completely herself. When I took Sean with me to the Rebelle conference I spoke at, he too was blown away by her ability to make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room.
Shannon—if you’re listening to this—we adore you and we’re so glad you’re our internet neighbor.
On this topic of networking and getting to know your internet neighbor, I could think of no one better to talk to than Shannon, and as luck would have it, I did talk with her in early 2019 about this very subject. I’m sharing this conversation again in hopes that it inspires you to get to know your internet neighbors and expand your network.
Keep in mind, Shannon talks a lot about networking and relationship-building in person. But these concepts apply to getting to know someone online, too.
Now, let’s find out What Works for Shannon Siriano Greenwood.