Using Online Social Networking To Reinforce Offline Networking


I’ve been attending quite a few different networking events and groups lately, to expand both my business and social circles and so I’ve been thinking about how social networking happens on and offline. For me, networking is about more than collecting business cards – it becomes much more interesting, fun and effective when you add social media into the mix as I describe below.

If you are not already connecting the dots between your offline and online social networking, you’re missing out on the real benefits. In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell emphasizes the importance of ‘weak ties’ – social media is the perfect way to maintain these – especially for an introverted geek like me who’d prefer to tap at a keyboard than pick up a phone 😉

Why Social Networking Is A Great Way To Build On Your Real Life Networking

1) Networking events can be hectic – perhaps you just meet someone for a few minutes and trade cards. What’s the next step? Keeping in contact with someone you met briefly can be a bit awkward – what do you find to email or call that person about? It’s hard to call just for a casual chat when you don’t really know them or have a particular reason to get in touch. A connection like that could easily dwindle, but with social networking you have the opportunity to stay connected in an easy, low-maintenance way – find out more about each other, and over time, opportunities could open up. In this way, even a brief interaction at an event can still lead to a valuable business relationship. No ‘power lunches’ required.

2) Being social networking buddies is a good way to stay “top-of-mind” without constantly sales-pitching. If you show that you are being helpful and knowledgeable, you’ve scored way more points than an email or phone sales-pitch could have. It gives people an invaluable glimpse into what it might be like to do business with you.

3) While some people are great in social situations and very comfortable with that, others find it much easier to be themselves in the virtual world. So by connecting with people in both realms, you get a more well-rounded picture of who this person is, and they of you, and what you may have in common –personally or in business.

Ways To Enhance Your Offline Networking With Online Social Networking
Many of these work as standalone social networking tips, but when you combine them with the personal face-to-face connection, you’re boosting your network-building exponentially.

1) When I’m at a networking event, I’m not there to sell you something. I prefer to meet people as people – not stepping stones. I try and gain some insight as to what you’re all about as a person, as well as about what you do, and who your ideal client might be, in case I can make referrals.  I take the same approach online – by now we should all know that social media is not the place for sales pitches!

2) The following actually happened to me.  After a networking event, someone that was present but that I did not meet got my email from the group’s website and sent me a templated email saying “Great meeting you at [the event]” and then went on to launch a full sales pitch at me! AND they added me to their email list. This is, well,  icky to put it mildly and totally turned me off wanting to correspond with this person. A much more appropriate, friendlier and less invasive way would have been to find me on Twitter, Linked In etc and connect with me there in a more sincere manner – “Hey I didn’t meet you at the event but would like to connect.”

2) Email/phone is good for passing along relevant information in a personal way or for private communication, but social media is a great place to say something like ‘hey, great blog post’ since you are contributing to the social proof of that person’s expertise.

3) When I meet cool or interesting people offline, I like to then find them on Twitter and give them a shout out or perhaps a FollowFriday – but not the kind that just lists a bunch of names in one tweet  -I give each person a separate Tweet with something about them that stands out and why it could be good to follow them.  Again, it’s great for their social proof, and it’s just more personal and thoughtful.

follow friday tweet

follow friday tweet

4) Participate in crowdsourcing & problem solving – when someone you know asks an open question via a social network, even if you can’t answer it, perhaps you can redirect it to your own network on their behalf. A very fast, painless way to leverage your own network for someone else – it’ll be appreciated.

5) If you’re attending an event – find out who the attendees are and connect online beforehand – maybe even arrange a meetup at the event. It’s easier if the ice is already broken before you even meet IRL (in real life).

6) Use organizational tools like Twitter lists or filters on your Facebook feeds specifically for people you’ve met IRL so that you can easily keep up with them – especially if you follow a lot of people.

What other ways can you think of to connect the dots between online and offline social networking?

*header image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecstaticist/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0