One of the biggest criticisms of social media is that people are abandoning ‘real people’ to spend their time online. I see it differently, social media is a great way of meeting new people, forging new relationships and it’s a way of always having a ‘real person’ to hook up with wherever in the world you find yourself.
I’m in Scotland at the moment, my parents live in a pretty remote village on the east coast not far from John O’Groats. On my way here I met up with a friend in Edinburgh, a friend I met online through a mutual friend on Facebook. We had breakfast before I had to catch the train. There used to be a fellow tweeter who lived just up the road from my parents and we were able to meet for a pint and a chat when I visited. Last week in Dublin I went to a TweetUp with the host and listeners of the FIR podcast. It was great to meet new people with similar interests and to chat with some people I hadn’t seen in a while.
These are all real people and they are all people I’ve met online. They’re not strangers, they are people I know I have something in common with and as we’ve chatted online it’s easy enough to bring that conversation into the real world.
How does this translate to business? One of the things I love most about social media is that is able to take the coldness out of cold calling and the fear out of networking meetings. Here’s a few tips on building these relationships.
Linkedin is a great place to find out about networking events happening near you. Once you’ve decided which ones to go to check out the guest list and see who you might have a synergy with, who you may have met online before. Remember this isn’t people you want to sell to directly. These are people you can build strong connections with, people that you may be able to refer business to in the future or who may be able to refer business to you. If there is someone you are keen to meet drop them a message or an email before the event and arrange to meet them. It’s great to walk into a room at an event and know you have someone to meet.
I’m quite strict about who I connect to on Linkedin. It might be old fashioned but I still use it as a trusted network. I tend to only connect to people who I’ve met and had a chat with or had a prolonged discussion with online. Of course all rules are there to be broken and if I haven’t met someone personally I sometimes offer to meet for coffee so we can get to know each other better. I’ve met some great people this way, people I can refer business to and people I can just ask a question of if I need help as well as people who might need to ask me for help from time to time.
Building relationships with Twitter
Twitter is a great relationship building tool. You can attempt to get to know anyone you want to on Twitter. Getting into conversations with people, chatting about topics you have in common mean that you can really get to know people. It’s simple to take this one step further and suggest meeting for coffee, a milkshake or lunch. As someone who lives down the country I find this particularly useful during my trips to Dublin and it’s how I found myself having a great chat over breakfast in Edinburgh yesterday.
Going To Events with Twitter
I travel to conferences quite often, most of the time alone. Following the Twitter #tag means that I’m never stuck for someone to talk to in a lunch or coffee break. Recently in London I got to meet to Irish Tweeters, @paulinesargent and @jilloherlihy. You might think it odd that I travelled all the way to London to meet to Irish people but it was a great opportunity to get to know them better and hopefully forge stronger relationships in the future.
I’m really only scratching the surface with this blog post and I’d really like to hear your stories of real people you’ve met offline. Leave your stories and suggestions below in the comments.