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June 28, 2011

Extend Online Relationships to Create Offline Networks

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As marketers, we spend a lot of time convincing people that social media is where it’s at, how it’s important and why they simply can’t live without it. We probably push the issue as far as it can go because, well, we just want people to get with it and realize the more reach and exposure online, the better.

#EpicDinner

But outside the social media relationship bubble, there’s a whole other type of social that can potentially have a lot more impact on ROI and relationships than just social media. This thing can take your social media relationship and even your business prospect to the next level … ready for it? Face-to-face meetings.

This may seem like a “duh” point for many of you, but let me explain.

Take the scenario of the active Twitter user. This person owns a business, carries on multiple conversations through Twitter daily, promotes herself and her business furiously and sees some success in the way of traffic, links and branding.

But this same person, as social as she is in social media platforms, never takes the time to attend any networking events, doesn’t go to industry conferences or seminars, and has never met a single person in her social media network face-to-face.

Do you think this approach is going to help or hurt business?

See, social media can only get you so far. Yes, you should have it. Yes, you should do it right. But at no time should you think that it’s the only relationship building you can do. It’s certainly a catalyst for building relationships, but solidifying them takes more.

Solidifying these relationships face-to-face after you have created your starting point from your social medium of choice can be the turning point for that relationship. Think about all the ways a face-to-face meeting can put things on a new path:

  • Solidify your personal brand
  • Add depth and trust to the relationship, allowing for more opportunity
  • Transition from “Twitter follower” to “colleague” or even “friend”
  • Serve as the deciding factor in the closing of a deal

That last one is very real, my friends. As much as people want to fixate on numbers and logistics of a business deal, oftentimes business decisions are emotional. And if someone feels a connection with you – and sometimes all you need is a face-to-face conversation to catapult you there – the deal is made.

So when we talk about all the ways we can measure the ROI of our efforts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, we should also add to the equation the ROI of the face-to-face meeting that closed the deal that originated from a relationship on Twitter, that perhaps wouldn’t have closed without that personal interaction.

According to a study by Forbes, 84 percent of executives preferred face-to-face meeting versus technology-enabled meetings. Eighty-five percent of those respondents’ No. 1 reason for this was to build stronger, more meaningful business relationships.

Organizing Meetups through Social Mediums

Get to know the people who follow you. They are already prequalified to be interested in the same things you are. It’s certain that many of them attend the same events. Plan ahead of time to make sure that the people you’ve identified as important to you or your business in some way meet with you at the next industry event you plan to attend.

Take stock:

  1. Who are the people in your network?
  2. Of those people, who are attending some of the same events you are (following hashtags for industry events is a good way to identify them in Twitter)
  3. Of those event-goers, who are those who are most influential or can potentially have the most impact?
  4. Decide how you can arrange to meet these people – not just to sell them something, but to create a meaningful relationship.

Not headed to a conference, seminar or networking event anytime soon? Create your own. In a recent post by guest author Shannon Downey of Pivotal Production, she talks about Twitter as the single-greatest relationship and branding tool, and it being a catalyst for many things – one of them being growing your network.

In her post, she talks about Tweetups (the name is just as it sounds, meetups for Twitter communities); these events can help move your online relationships into the real world and give you more reach through relationships with those in your community.

Tweetups are a great option for those who can’t make it to big industry events due to time, money or travel constraints. In this case, you find the people who matter in the city you live in – think about the implications of that network on your business.

Tips for Transitioning from Social Media Stand-In to Friend

Most people know how to act in social situations, so this isn’t a lesson in social skills, but there are a few common pitfalls to avoid (yes, this does happen):

  1. Remember the same type of etiquette you use for your social media efforts should not be forgotten in your personal interactions face-to-face. Just as us marketers know that hard sells aren’t appropriate for certain mediums, they’re not appropriate for first meetings either (unless it’s an agreed upon business meeting).
  2. Try to keep your blabbing to a minimum – pretend there is a 140-character limit on how much you talk about yourself. My Yogi tea bag (this is where I get my mantras every morning now since I decided to cut back on coffee) told me the other morning that listening is the greatest tool.
  3. Don’t completely surprise people with your personality. That means, if you act all sweet and PC on Twitter but show up dropping F-Bombs, you could alienate people. Remember your personality online should be as real to your personality as possible and vice versa.

First you need a chance to make an impression, then you need to make it great. Now you’re on your way to making social media really work for you.

What are your tips for solidifying your online relationships in the real world? Share with us in the comments below!

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6 responses to “Extend Online Relationships to Create Offline Networks”

  1. Jonathan Patrick writes:

    Jessica

    Nice article. You might take a look at a site I created and launched in November 2010 as a resource for your readers.

    GoGrabLunch.com facilitates face to face networking lunches between business professionals.

    I’d love your take on what it is we do.

  2. Jessica Lee writes:

    Very smart, Jonathan! I wonder if any of your clients are also active in social media? Thanks for the comment and tweeting the post!

  3. Brent Rangen writes:

    HAHA,

    “Don’t completely surprise people with your personality. That means, if you act all sweet and PC on Twitter but show up dropping F-Bombs, you could alienate people. Remember your personality online should be as real to your personality as possible and vice versa.”

    Come on.. that’s the best part!

    It’s true though, Twitter has been the best way for me to build out my off-line relationships believe it or not. DM’s and @mentions for thank-yous, project check-ups, and introductions. It is so quick, if it doesn’t hit the mark you don’t waste hardly any time. I do need to get better about actually making time for more meet-ups and local conferences though.

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    Well, yes, dropping F-Bombs is fun — but I am really surprised when people have a certain persona online, whether it’s sweet or salty, and then they act totally different in person. Keep it real, people! Speaking of conferences, let’s meet up at SES!

  5. Kent writes:

    I have to tell a story in brief (which I am going to blog it on my blog) on how social media change my life.

    I was the person Jessica mentioned. I didn’t go to seminar and I didn’t attend any meeting. But social media made me realize that how important for a businessman to not only socialize online but offline as well, especially Malaysia market since it is not matured as other westerns countries. It changed my life how to socialize offline, I just need to apply the same technique that I have learnt online to offline, it does help in my business.

    I became more socialize rather than just sitting in front of computer, I became a more happy person, my life totally changed. This is true story of mine! :)

  6. Jessica Lee writes:

    Love it, Kent — sometimes business needs push us outside of our comfort zone and we grow personally because of it. Great story, thank you for sharing!



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