Whether Social Media Or Networking – It All Starts With the Right Conversation

There appears to be this ongoing discussion as to the return on investment for social media activities. During this perpetual dialogue, one of the more important components often overlooked is the comparative amount of time many business owners and sales professionals already spend on the same old, traditional business development activities like networking. One of the most prominent advantages associated with social media interaction as it relates to business development, is the massive benefits it provides in creating awareness, building relationships, and increasing connections. Many people seem to have no issue with spending two or three and up to five hours a week on face-to-face networking events. Yet, it is these same people who seem to be reluctant to engage in those same two-to-five hours of social media networking work. For many, this feels like a waste of time.

While we can compare the differences and the real advantages between the two, the bottom line is that whether your business development activities are social media based or face-to-face network oriented, the power of the conversation and the strength of the connection drives everything in the relationship building process. What most people do not realize that there is a tremendous opportunity to effectively engage in this very activity with social media in a manner that is at least productive, if not more, than traditional face-to-face networking. It is this experience that causes me to challenge those who value actual face-to-face networking over virtual social media networking. For those who support this challenge really do not know the potential, recognize its power, or understand the process.

In order to better understand the remarkable similarities between the two approaches and to provide a little insight in how to effectively build any relationship, virtual or otherwise, here are four areas for consideration when analyzing this debate:

1. The Potential of Many over the Hope of the Few:

Even if a networking event has 800 people in it, how many people can you effectively meet? More importantly, how many can you effectively engage in preliminary chatter and introduce yourself to them. You cannot build a relationship or close a sale at a networking event, you can only explore the potential to create interest in one. With social media it is the same, except you have the ability to introduce yourself to hundreds of thousands of people every time you initiate a conversation through social media.

2. Defining a Valuable Connection:

Relationships can be very effectively started on either medium. How you develop them is dependent upon your commitment to real relationship building. Effective networking relationships take time to build trust and rapport. The best networking relationships are always cultivated over time. Social media relationships are the same way. The problem is that most people spend too much time selling and pitching on either platform to effectively build great relationships. Which leads us to the next point-the conversation.

3. The Effective Conversation:

Great business relationships require time to develop. I have noticed that there is way too much “selling” taking place at both networking events and on social media platforms. Both platforms provide a great opportunity to create interest, establish connections and build relationships. The only difference is that the ineffective networker makes direct, face-to-face contact with the people they are turning off. Hence, they confuse having made these contacts as indicators of positive activity and productive results. With social media, the bad networker doesn’t get to actually see the people that are deleting his spammy tweets.

4. Use Your Imagination:

If you knew you were having an open-ended conversation with 1,000 people with one message, blog, or tweet how would you feel about social media? How would you feel about that opportunity? Pretend you have an opportunity to introduce yourself to 1,000 people at once. Would you pitch them or introduce yourself? Would you find out what they are up to? Would you work to discover what is important to them at that time? As a very good networker you would introduce yourself and attempt to engage all of them in a conversation that made them the focal point. It usually starts with a great open ended question that encourages people to elicit a response. It would go something like this, “what are you looking to accomplish today?” The answers will define where you go from there. In the end, true and productive relationship development requires that we encourage people to engage and share. In the social media world it is no different.

Whether face-to-face or virtual, networking and relationship building is the same. For those who probably haven’t “gotten social media” or think there needs to be an ROI for these activities, they probably need to examine their overall networking behavior anyway. Start over with your networking strategy and approach. Introduce yourself and start a conversation. Listen, learn, and start building relationships, build a lot of relationships. Whether virtual or not, great relationships are all about the conversation. Once you understand how to accomplish this, take your show onto the Internet and turn it loose. You will be amazed at the outcome.