The Benefits of Networking Offline in an Online World
Despite the explosive growth of networking on social media websites – LinkedIn, for example, has grown from 60 million users to 80 million since January – some budding and seasoned entrepreneurs alike are finding success interacting the way people have done for centuries: in person.
Within the past few years, entrepreneurs have gradually begun relying heavily on social media to meet new people. Relationships flourish and evolve through e-mail, social media and mobile applications to stay connected.
But Aditi Gautam, founder of NY Smart Business Networking Group on Meetup.com, said online networking can only do so much. Face-to-face interaction, she added, can offer an additional boost for any business professional.
“Social media might be able to introduce you to certain number of people, but I believe that if you want to build long-lasting alliances and grow your referral network, you need to know and believe in the other person’s work,” by meeting in person, Gautam told BusinessNewsDaily.
Trust, she said, is built during one-on-one sessions, whether they are at conferences and trade shows, during lunch or after work over drinks.
A crop of young entrepreneurs, who throughout their college tenures used the popular social media platforms, may understand more than any generation the importance of offline networking while still maintaining a digital presence.
“During online interactions, a potential consumer gets to know a company or entity through the content they produce, not the character or mission of those in charge of operations,” said Benjamin Roberts, who graduated from Cornell University in May and plans to launch Terran Exchange, a business-to-business marketplace for commercial software, in December.
“You are far more likely to win over a customer with a firm handshake, confident smile and well-rehearsed pitch than page upon page of industry data supporting your product.”
Roberts recently attended technology conference Interop where he put his philosophy to the test. There, he mingled and soon met someone who wanted to display a patent on Roberts’ forthcoming business website.
“I believe there is no better way to explain your company’s vision, message or purpose better than a face-to-face conversation,” Roberts said.
Gautam and Roberts shared a few Dos and Don’ts to help you network at events:
- Do understand the other person’s needs
- Don’t just exchange business cards
- Do set as many one-on-one meetings as you can during or after an event.
- Do ask yourself, “What is the greatest need within my business right now?” Then, determine who you would like to meet to fill those needs and prepare a pitch that would appeal to that select audience.
“In-person networking is instant gratification,” Roberts said. “If people understand your business, idea, product and understand your value, great.”
And it’s a sensible measurement of your networking tactics on and off the Internet.
“If they can’t understand you or you can’t distill your message into a couple of sentences (in person), how can you build trust on the Web?”
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Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer Brian Anthony Hernandez at Bhernandez@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter (@BAHjournalist) and become his friend on Facebook (BAH Journalist) to interact or stay updated on news about small businesses.