Is it easy to tell if you are a scammer or straight-shooter?

easyThe social web has made it so easy for people to connect with each other and have a voice at the table like never before. Last night at a tweetup here in Honolulu, I met Larry Heim, CEO of HonBlue. This was a Tweetup Treat, as Larry and I do not normally travel in the same circles. Later back at home I could Google him. Then find his LinkedIn profile on the first page of Google’s results. Then click through to a known company here in Honolulu. “That was easy!”

Contrast that to a situation this past week. I was approached (via several urgent phone calls over the weekend), to become an affiliate of a new web site and to also have this company make a presentation at our upcoming Social Media Club meeting. Let’s just call him Sammy.

By coincidence, Seth Godin tackles this topic of the tacky techie on his blog today:

…you can see the danger anyone who introduces new technology faces. While you’ll attract Les Paul and the 37Signals guys, you’re more likely to attract spammers, scammers, opportunity seekers and others that will bring our culture down as easily as they’ll bring it up.

There were several practices that were used by Sammy which indicated he was not a good fit for me. Teachable moments are in italics.

  • Contacted me via phone rather than via email. I rarely answer the phone if I don’t know the caller. If you have your caller ID blocked, you will never have me pick up live. It’s just a function of how many incomings I get and that the phone is an interruption when I am working on someone else’s project. I reserve the same courtesy for you if I am working on your project.
  • Left very urgent voice mails after normal business hours: Fri afternoon, Sat morning, Sat evening, then Mon morning. I know, the web is 24/7, but even though I might be web surfing for pleasure on Sat night does not mean I want your business problem at that time. The more you call me during non-business hours, the less likely I will respond at all.
  • Made false and unsubstantiated claims. “We launched our Site 10 day’s ago and according to Alexa Rating we surpassed twitter in 3 days.” That is an actual quote! And it is patently false. I checked Alexa.
  • Has no verifiable bio or resume to be found online, nor any links on reputable sites with biographical details. When all I can find about you on Google search are things like message board postings or a one-off weight loss blog offer, then you are not a serious business person IMO.
  • Used a Hotmail address when he finally contacted me via email. You may not know this however Hotmail and AOL email addresses do not inspire confidence in savvy business professionals. Get an email address at your domain (the same domain that has your biographical info and references) or get a Gmail address. Because Hotmail and AOL are infiltrated by spammers and force you to wade through mountains of blinking ads to check your own email, no serious business person I know has the tolerance or time for that.
  • Had numerous mis-spellings and grammatical errors in the email. The web is very informal in many ways. However, we business folk still get the “nails on chalkboard” feeling when an email comes in written by someone who appears to be using English as a second language while posing as a native speaker.

There’s more, but this is enough to make the point. Because it is easier than ever to connect, have incoming filters to guide you against those who are not a good fit or worse. Because it is easier than ever to connect, and anyone can wrap messages in words of aloha, be smart about who you hire and why.

On the other hand, because it is easier than ever to connect, it makes strategic sense to list verified credentials and facts when you are reaching out to someone, versus dropping names and over-stating your case. It may work on the short term but over time you are hurting your credibility by trying to make your self, your brand, your idea, more than it actually is at this moment in time.

What tips do you use to make it easy for people to tell you apart from the blowhards and scammers who make a lot of noise on the social web? Contact me if you’d like to see an anonymous copy of the email response I sent “Sammy.” I don’t believe in being rude tho I do believe in calling out the facts.