05
Feb

The Convergence of Online and Offline Networking

John Jantsch posed a question a few days ago, “Is networking online really that different?

Precisely. It’s not.

Networking is the best way to grow your contacts, your business, build sales and relationships. I’ve found that the more pervasive social networking tools are online; they still reflect the primary essence of personal networking. I have met countless people online, yet when we are able to finally meet face-to-face, it changes the relationship and deepens it. There is a shared commonality at first, but then a friendship ensues.

Networking Breakfastssocial networking
I’ve been a member of many breakfast networking groups, which I’ve always enjoyed. Meeting new people and visiting with acquaintances has always been an enjoyable draw to attend those meetings. It is also something that I miss, being so digitally driven these days. Nothing can really take the place of face-to-face interaction.

Back to the point . . . . One of the networking meetings that I attended opened every week with the introduction that we “do business with those that we like, know and trust.” That is the essence of networking and building a network of people. These are also three things that can’t be faked easily. It was easy to spot the people that came to the networking meetings expecting a quick sale. They would usually attend for about 3-4 meetings, but then quietly left. The potential of quick sales was not there, only the investment of time into other people. Networking isn’t a quick fix for sales; it is an investment in getting to know other people.

Another easy spot in the networking game is the “what can you do for me?” person. They realize that they quick sale may not happen, but you can’t talk to them without feeling as though they are sizing you up all of the time. With very little genuine interest in you, the conversation focuses on them. They like to keep score, and expect much from others.

Relationship First
John makes an excellent first point of networking best practices:

It’s never about the sale, it’s always about the relationship – build first by giving

Regardless of the social media website, widget, or campaign, building relationships always proves to provide longer-lasting results. It also makes a big difference as to who invites you to join new networks, as many people hold higher levels of trust and like-ability. People are more likely to take a recommended action when you have proven yourself to be trustworthy, like-able and knowledgeable.

Investments in People
Taking the time to simply talk with people is an invaluable investment that has far-reaching results. Many times, I’ve been able to visit with a networking group that I haven’t attended in years, but still experience a warm reception. That only happens when it’s about the people and not the business.

Business has to take a back seat when building relationships. Honest conversation and care is genuinely felt by others, and it is something not commonly experienced on a daily basis. A good networking group discusses more than business, but business happens naturally.

How do we take this Online?
Well, there is the question. How do we take networking online?

  1. Listen. The best advice is simply to search and listen at first. Find your market and sit back and listen to the conversation first. Don’t be “that guy” and jump into a conversation that you know nothing about. Listen first.
  2. Give. Contribute something of value. advice or additional support. Your first foray into a new network should never be a pitch. Rather, it should be helpful information that benefits the group, forum, discussion, whatever.
  3. Build. Build your reputation. Build your credibility. This is the time to establish yourself as a knowledgeable asset to the community. The more you contribute and help others, your estimation will increase. The help you provide will pay off down the line as an investment in your character.
  4. Respond. When the time is right, someone will ask you for a direct opinion. Or, something that may arise that will provide the perfect situation for you to assert your knowledge and prove an opportunity to “sell” yourself. However, the difference now is that you are a person and not a (gasp) “marketer”.
  5. Educate. Don’t sell. if you have followed the prior steps with patience, you can have the credibility to educate rather than sell, which always provides an opportunity to show yourself as an expert in your field. Educating is much more powerful than selling, and when it is done in the best interest of the community, it is welcomed.

Related Posts:
The Rules of the Conversation
How to Get Links Without Trying
3 C’s of Marketing: Content, Context, Community

About Matt Bailey
Matt is the owner and founder of SiteLogic and has over 15 years in the internet marketing industry. He focuses on consulting and training to help companies take control of their websites and marketing strategies. You can find out more by reading his book: Internet Marketing: An Hour a Day

4 Comments for this entry

Nate Riggs
February 28th, 2008 on 3:10 pm

Online vs off-line networking is an interesting discussion. You are right on in that placing focus on building the relationship first is the best approach.

I’m not an expert, but I’ve noticed two different approaches to this:

1. Individuals meet off-line and then transfer that relationship to web-based networks (such as the case with Facebook, LinkedIn, and other permission based data sharing platforms)

2. Individuals meet friends of friends via online social networks, blogs, forums, etc., and then translate that to face to face social groups.

In your opinion, which scenario has tendency to build stronger relationships? OR do you think it matters at all?

Matt Bailey
February 28th, 2008 on 3:37 pm

Nate,

Just from my own observation, I have had online relationships with many people over the years, and meeting in-person just deepened the relationship. These were initiated by everything from forum memberships to comments on other people’s blogs.

Meeting many people in-person and then taking it to Facebook or LinkedIn helps to facilitate an ongoing relationship, but it still boils down to personalities and “hitting it off”. I don’t find these bonds to be as strong – mainly because there isn’t an established relationship at the start. While many initial meetings go into the Facebook files, some continue by email and phone and flourish from there.

jenny
January 19th, 2009 on 6:13 am

Online networking is just an extension of offline networking but I am very much convinced that the deep connection you share in offline can never be matched by the online connection!!!

jeux ps2
December 8th, 2009 on 1:45 am

I agree with your post. Online and offline marketing are related to each other, however believe, an online marketer can do offline marketing but an offline marketer cannot do online marketing since offline marketers are not aware of new media tactics.











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