It can be very easy to fall in the trap and sit in front of your computer screen and interact, to network exclusively on-line.
F2F networking is not going away. It is still needed if for no other reason than to validate the accuracy of online. You need both parts to be a successful networker in business today.
To get your networking running on all cylinders you need to be in both places.
Online your business card becomes your profile page. It states who you are and what you do. F2F it is your (read) business card and your actual appearance that people (right or wrongly) sum you up.
In SM it is creating the best work and picture you can to create a good impression and establish your “brand”. Read, read and reread, pour over it to look out for typos (yes I know I’m the typo king here). Then it becomes a matter of participation. You need to be involved in your on-line community.
The different SM sites all have different purposes. LinkedIn is more of a recourse tool than a networking tool. A ning a flowing networking device. MerchantCircle is redefining its self from what was once a very powerful tool into I’m not sure what. Facebook has the members and the money, but how will it bridge the gap from a pure social site into a Businesses SM tool? MySpace? Music lovers flock to it, the members at indeed there but can business not involved in use it? I will say it has been good for my CD / DVD duplication business, but not my telemarketing business. So you need to pick your spots with more appearing every week.
Can you take your On-Line and make it F2F. Even now we are seeing twitter clubs for F2F popping up. Ning sites are pushing the idea of local “clubs” to solidify their place in networking on all levels. I am working in this direction myself and hope to launch it this summer. The ning CHICAGO'S BLACK BUSINESS NETWORK has already done this with a weekly Thursday night networking group
So where do old line F2F networking groups fit into the mix? They need to transform themselves. Chambers, Rotary, Trade Associations etc can survive but they need to add in a virtual experience into the mix or continue to be known as the “good-old boys” club(s).
Larson note: Networking has become a new revelation. Those that can make the leap onto both sites of the world, virtual and real time will grow. Those that can’t? Well I’d place my bets, and time on those that push to be in both worlds.
Larson & Associates
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