We all want to build our businesses and we know that networking with other professionals and business owners is a great way to ‘get the word out’.
You’ve heard of online networking i.e. using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so many others. You’ve heard of offline networking i.e. face to face networking. The kind you get through joining networking groups, chambers of commerce, and attending formal networking meetings or business conventions.
As with most things, there are pros and cons to each.
With online networking you have access to a huge number of individuals. I have found that LinkedIn is one of the best resources for professional online networking. You can locate people within a specific line of business, in a certain demographic, in a particular geographic location, with a specific skill-set, etc. You can connect with them and develop relationships that can lead to improving both your and your connections’ career and/or business. The main problem with online networking is that it takes longer to reach that ‘comfort level’ with another person because it’s done primarily online through messaging and email.
With offline networking, you meet people face-to-face. You shake their hand. You look them in the eye and you can get that warm and fuzzy comfort level much more quickly. The problem with this approach is that your access to these individuals is limited to the groups and events that you attend, and the people you are associated with.
Onffline networking is a combination of both online and offline networking. You look for someone online that meets your preferred criteria. You connect with them however that particular network allows. In the case of LinkedIn, you connect through an associate, send a direct connection request, send an in-mail, or join a common group. Once connected, you get better acquainted initially through email or even a phone call and then, when it makes sense, you set up a time to share a cup of coffee and take the online ‘connection’ offline. This provides the best of both approaches, giving you access to the broad spectrum of people, as well as the warm and fuzzy feeling you get with a face-to-face meeting. This approach is not without its shortfall though. In order to take advantage of this technique, you are typically restricted to only those individuals that are in traveling distance from you. However, it does open the door to many more face-to-face meetings than you could probably arrange through only offline means.
You don’t have to stop connecting the traditional online or offline ways, but add this to your networking approach. Try it and see for yourself if it works for you. It’s worth the effort.