The right way and wrong way to network
Nathan Madsenstudios Madsenstudios networking forums games audio press development social
Having been a member of GD.net since 2006 and a moderator of the Music and Sound forum since 2008, I've run across many of posts that are looking for help, offering services or announcing a new project. One thing that strikes me is how commonly a post can slip into the wrong ways of networking. Remember the old adage "no press is bad press." Well, it's wrong. At least in the game industry. There's a right way and wrong way to network and I'll briefly cover some of the more common missteps I've seen on GD.net.
1) Don't over saturate the market.
While GD.net has some policies set in place to try and avoid project X posting 45 times a day about their game, there are still ways around this. For example, I have several contacts from GD.net that I'm also connected to via Facebook, LinkedIn and other social outlets. Most of my connections are great but a few really over do the exposure thing. One person in particular, let's call him Mr. X, emailed me twice to join Facebook, even though I was already on FB and connected to him, as well as emailed me four invites for a LinkedIn group back to back. Mr. X also requested an LinkedIn introduction but it was assigned to "Cathy" and was requesting an introduction to "Bob". Well, I'm not "Cathy" and I wasn't connected to any "Bob". He also takes place in nearly every audio discussion regardless if he has anything of true substance to add or not. I see him EVERYWHERE! And it's not making me more interested in his services or hiring him. In fact, it's having the opposite effect. I don't often look for work on GD.net due to most projects not offering secure payment (which is a whole other discussion) but on my other freelancing sites I'll usually post about once every month to 1.5 months or so. This usually leaves some breathing room and doesn't over saturate the market with my presence. In short, you don't want to annoy your audience nor do you want to come off super desperate. Over saturating the market can do both of these things.
2) Be open to critiques or criticisms.
This is perhaps the most common issue I see on GD.net, usually by new(er) or young(er) game developers. Someone with more experience and industry credentials makes a suggestion or two on their post in an effort to help their project. If the feedback section is set to any - there's really nothing wrong about this. Instead of understanding that it's an effort to help some users get angry. Some feel the need to debunk all critiques. Or they feel the need to lecture the person on just how wrong they are or that they're not needed. This is completely the wrong approach to take! This is especially true if you're just starting out and the advice is coming from an industry veteran. Perhaps they've learned something you haven't. Be open to it. At least consider it. If you don't feel the critique or advice applies to your project just thank them for taking the time to try and help. There's no need to debunk someone and especially no need to get angry. All this does it make you look bad, defensive and possibly even childish. A simple "I appreciate you taking the time to give me this advice. I'll definitely take it into consideration." will accomplish so much more for you and your project than having an online argument. Remember GD.net is open to ANYONE! It gets a great deal of traffic so you don't want to be that angry user that everyone's reading about and saying to themselves "wow, don't want to work with THAT guy!" Even if you're right in your come backs, there's a right way and wrong way to act publicly... which GD.net forums always are. Remember that.
3) Be who you are, where you are.
This point may come off somewhat vague but what I mean by this is NEVER inflate your studio, your skill set or project beyond what it is. An example: there was a user that posted "internationally renowned composer available for work" and detailed having worked on over 300 Hollywood films and such. The audio industry is actually fairly small and it doesn't take long to know many of the key figures in the industry. Guys often connect and communicate with each other. My peers and I all talked (offline) about who is this guy. It turns out none of us had even heard of him. Those 300 Hollywood films he worked on were actually home projects where he re-scored them for practice. His demo page was a Myspace account. Now stick with me on this here. Re-scoring is a great practice! One that I still do! By itself there's nothing wrong with that. But look at how he presented it. He claimed this was industry experience when we all knew that the *real* composer of Harry Potter 1 was John Williams and not this guy. His claim of being internationally renowned was from having two guys in different regions of the globe say they liked his work. That's hardly being internationally renowned. Learn from this guy's mistakes. Don't stretch who you are or where you are right now in the industry. If you're just starting out - that's OKAY! If you're doing your second project, there's nothing wrong with that. Just make your work is the absolute best it can be and be consistent. The rest will fall into place over time. Everyone had to start from somewhere and people will understand if you have a ton of passion and talent but little experience. They'll be much less understanding if you're stretching or outright lying about your credentials or stature.
4) Be open to other ways of networking.
There are so many ways to network which go far beyond the "hire me!" approach. Be creative. Think outside of the box. I read a story about a guy who was out of work so he paid a few hundred bucks to make Google results for some of the key figures from his industry. His Google hit read something akin to "Hey, I Google myself too! I'd like to work with you..." and then went on from there with his contact info and such. If memory serves, he put out five of these hits and got interviews with four of these key industry figures. He's now working with one of the firms in NYC. Everyone Googles themselves so what a cool way to get your name out there! It wasn't a huge investment and definitely helped him stick out from the common resume or email approach. So to say again - be creative! After all, we're IN a creative industry!
A few quickies: (and yes these have actually happened to me)
Do some research before contacting someone, especially in a certain language. English is the universal standard for most industries right now so it's your safest bet. I've had people contact me in French, Chinese and all sorts of other languages. I often reply with a standard "I'm sorry, but I cannot read language X. If you could re-send this message in English, I'll be happy to read it and get back to you."
Don't send messages that are outside someone's industry expertise. If you're unsure what services someone offers, just ask! They'll be happy to explain what they can do for you. I've received some really interesting looking projects that are asking me to provide graphics or programming. Too bad I cannot do either. I also get offers to submit my scripts for the next Hollywood blockbuster. If they had done a tiny bit of research into what services Madsen Studios offers, they would have realized I'm not a good match for their needs. Keep in mind these were not friends asking for leads. These were strangers soliciting services from Madsen Studios. All these emails did was confirm to me that they had no clue what services and skills my company actually offered (which are clearly posted on my website).
Unless you have a personal relationship with someone, avoid sending spam emails about non-industry stuff. One guy emailed me on LinkedIn asking me to look over his March Madness picks. Well, I love basketball but I don't know him, we're not even connected and it's not really work related so I think I'll pass. It's probably best to keep hobby and fun stuff to only your friends and colleagues that you have a good relationship with. No perfect strangers. It just comes off as spam.
Share your work! I'm a firm believer of networking and announcing shipped projects! What better time to reconnect with others than after finishing a project (be it a CD, video game, film, etc).
That's about it. Simple. Straight forward. Remember that you're acting publicly when posting on the forums. Always strive to put your best foot forward. Networking takes time. But slow and steady wins the race. Do good work, treat people with respect and be smart about how you're putting yourself out there. The rest will follow with time. Good luck and go make some great games!