You are a LinkedIn LION with hundreds, even thousands of online contacts. You are the king of social networking because no one has as many followers on Twitter, Facebook, or even Ecademy. What does this really mean? Not much. No one can maintain hundreds or thousands of meaningful online relationships. How many of those thousands of contacts will be there for you when you need a referral or help closing a new account?
So when it comes to online networking, do you want to go for quality or quantity? You can add as many contacts as you want to your online portfolios, but after a time they become unmanageable. You can’t tell the players apart, even with a scorecard. So continue to build your network, but be sure to keep a list of online contacts that is smaller and more intimate. Find people who can genuinely assist you, or maybe even buy your services, and establish a rapport.
How do you do that? I recently saw a new blog post by The Strategic Guy, Marc Hausman of Strategic Communications, with a few concrete suggestions:
- Meet ups. Marc talks about corporate sponsored meetups but what about area meetings, Tweetups, club meetings, regional seminars, and other professional gatherings. Anywhere you can find like-minded professionals sharing ideas and insights is a logical place to move from virtual contacts to face-to-face connections.
- Webinars and teleconferences. Okay, we are still operating in the virtual web world, but at least these kinds of gatherings with real folk discussing real issues let you gather around an online water cooler to share a mutual passion.
- Good old fashioned sales call. That’s right, close our e-mail and pick up the phone! For many, social media is an extension of the sales process. Get out there and make a connection! Contact that individual on the other end of the online connection and ask questions, learn, interact. This will help foster that real connection that will benefit you later.
In my years of pitching PR stories, I have learned that all the editors say they prefer e-mail pitches and don’t bother them when on deadline. So you send the e-mail to offer the story and make a virtual connection, but it’s the follow up phone call that cements the relationship. Most of the time the reporter won’t even remember the e-mail but, when you make the pitch by telephone you have an instant reaction, and an instant rapport.
There’s no such thing as virtual intimacy. Get out there and make contact in the real world, in real time, either face-to-face or at least by telephone. It’s still the best way to build your network.