Social Networking vs Traditional Networking

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Statue of Shaking Hands

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with Clare Tucker of Birmingham based The Vocational Marketing Academy (VMA). Clare is a highly qualified and experienced Corporate Marketing professional, and after picking her brains on all things Marketing, our conversation turned to Social Networking vs Traditional Networking. Clare expressed frustration that so many people in business are missing a trick because they don’t understand the benefits of Social Networking, or that they think it’s a replacement for Traditional Networking. Clare understood that the two work hand-in-hand.

Why should I be using Social Networking?

For the past couple of years or more, I too have spent a good deal of time talking with business owners about Social Networking. I’ve found that those I speak to typically fall into one of three categories:-

  • “I know I should be doing it, but I don’t have the time”
  • “I’m not sure I understand why I should be doing it”
  • “I’m not doing it. It’s a waste of time.”

Those who say they “don’t have time” often regret saying it to me, as I start breathlessly rambling on about tools and techniques for using Social Networking. I typically stop when I see the glazed look in their eyes.

Those who say “It’s a waste of time” – I change the subject. Engaging this individual in a conversation about Social Networking and I may as well talk about either Politics or Religion, all three topics are going to be equally as fun to discuss.

Understanding the benefits of Social Networking

But the majority of the people fall into the second category, “I’m not sure I understand why I should be doing it”. What’s more, people in this category often cite the fact that they already spend a lot of time doing “traditional” networking – attending groups like BNI, the Chamber of Commerce and other local face-to-face business networking groups.

Spending time doing traditional networking is fantastic. People do business with people they like, and face-to-face networking builds up trust and respect. But when I ask traditional networkers what their “system” for building relationships with new people they’ve met, and maintain existing relationships between face-to-face networking events is… they often confess that they’ve got a lot of business cards on their desk gathering dust that they must get round to doing something with.

For me, this is where Social Networking comes in. I have written before about the process I use for collecting Business Cards, and it heavily involves linking up with people I’ve met in the “real world” via Social Networking to aid in continuing the conversation. We connect on LinkedIn, I start a conversation with them on Twitter, or in some cases, we friend on Facebook.

I consider myself a person to whom relationships are very important, so I spend a lot of time meeting with people and keeping in touch with others via the telephone – but I know I’m not alone when I regularly think of somebody, or a persons name comes up in conversation and I say “I’ve been meaning to catch-up with them”.

Keeping in touch

Social Networking is a great way for passively keeping in touch with people. If somebody is an active user of Social Networking then you can let people know what you’re up to, add value to conversations, share information of mutual interest, and much more. If they aren’t an active Social Networking user, you can still keep in touch with them quickly and easily via e-mail – sending a link via e-mail with a note saying “I thought you might be interested in this article I wrote/found/had passed on to me” is not time consuming, but maintains the relationship between ‘phone calls or meetings.

It works in reverse too. If you spend all of your time doing Social Networking, just like spending all of your time doing traditional networking – you’ll get some results, but you’re missing an opportunity to take things further.

Conclusion

There are many a relationship that I’ve built solely through Social Networking – where I’ve found people via their blog, Twitter, or visa-versa, and which I then take to the next level by organising a meet up at a face-to-face business networking event.

It all comes down the individual you’re dealing with. Some prefer regular face-to-face or telephone calls, some prefer social networking – but whatever their preference – having the right tools to stay in touch with them is paramount.

In conclusion, for me the argument of Social Networking vs Traditional Networking is a non-starter – it’s all just …networking!

Clare at The VMA has made available to download a free  Marketing training Module entitled “Traditional vs New Marketing”. Go grab it!

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