I’ve moved to a new city recently (Toronto, city of Drake) and have been job hunting. Yes, job hunting is hard. But networking? Downright torture! Nevertheless, I persisted. To meet new people, I looked into a few different options.
All those options have slightly different but overlapping objectives, and meeting people from each platform has varying degrees of success (depending on your definition of success). Meeting mutual friends is the traditional route, but it was fairly limited, and I was interested in how far I could get with online solutions.
Meetup.com and searching for events that interested me was a good way to meet large groups of people with similar interests at the same time, but what it offered in breadth was lacking in depth. Or, at least the depth is dictated by how extensive you get into conversations with any particular person you meet at an event, which sometimes is pretty unlikely and downright difficult to accomplish.
Bumble was on my radar prior to coming to North America, and it was touted as Tinder with a twist: mainly for dating, and women shoot first. When I downloaded it for the first time, I wasn’t interested in the dating portion but wanted to check out its interface and see if there was a friends section. I noticed they had a business networking section but it seemed like it was in its fledgling stages, so I looked for an alternative. LinkedIn exists, of course, but a lot of people treated it as a professional profile page and not much more. I sent cold and warm messages throughout LinkedIn, and the results varied. Then, I came across Shapr.
I would describe Shapr as similar enough to LinkedIn, but seemingly for people who have the actual intention to make cold connections in real life. The Tinder interface is ever present, as Shapr also employs a “swipe left for pass, swipe right for yes” mechanism.
Shapr: like Tinder, but with somewhat fewer photos of dudes with tigers
Each person’s profile can be populated partially from LinkedIn, with a field indicating preference of method of meeting (e.g. prefer to meet for coffee? Phone call? Go on a walk or for a meal?). This helps structure meetings from the get go.
The best part that really helps move things along, in my opinion, are the template greetings embedded into messaging. When you successfully swipe a mutually interested profile, the different intros are offered above the message window, giving a conversation starter that can be done in 0.15 seconds. This is key — not only does it reduce dithering (after sending enough greetings, you’ll realize they are all mostly meaningless filler to get the essence of a conversation going anyway), but I personally find it inoffensive and highly effective. I can’t say if others feel the same when they receive a template message, but I see it as a significantly utilitarian process that helps build momentum and facilitates the real communication that follows.
The templates also match your meeting preferences, e.g. coffee chat like above
Now that I’ve been using it for about 2 months, I felt a wave of dread wash over me: I have not met a single woman from the app, and I knew I was part of the problem. Besides the fact that the pool already had disproportionately fewer women, I knew I cherry picked the profiles that I felt were interesting or helpful to my career. I found, unfortunately, that most of the female profiles I came across fit neither description. The self-selecting bias was perpetuating the types of people I met, and I figured I should overcome it by trying to meet people who were perhaps students or early on in their career, where perhaps I might be able to offer career advice or mentorship.
Even so, with a conscious effort in my mind each time I came across a new batch of profiles, the results were maddening. I still ended up swiping away a lot of women, and the ones I did contact never replied. My results are below as of today, and as if someone heard my inner thoughts while I was drafting this post, one of the women I contacted actually replied! And we might actually even meet! Awareness is indeed the first step to making change. Without further ado, the State of the Union in the Shapr world for me:
Note the highly technical classification.
The initiate ratio skews heavily toward me mainly due to the mechanics of the app more than anything; after a swipe yes and a mutual connection, I press ‘Send Message’ and I immediately tap a template greeting to get things started. In my perspective, this is fantastic UI and UX — so efficient!
I showed some percentages, but not an overall “conversion rate” of initial connections leading to an actual meeting (i.e. the conversion). Of 47 people contacted, 26 replied which is around half. Then of that 26, I have only met 9, which is 35% of those I’ve exchanged messages with. All in all, my total conversion is 19%. Sad.
The classifications in the table above are tongue-in-cheek, please don’t lynch me for seeing the world as two shades of Dudes and Not-Dudes.
Do you use Shapr or some other method of meeting new people and making new connections? Do you have a better rate of success than I do? Do you have networking goals for 2018? I would love to hear from you in the comments, or feel free to tweet/email me.