Has Face-to-Face Networking had its day?

by Charlie Lawson on August 16, 2012 · 8 comments

I was out for a drink with an old school friend on the weekend, and he asked me a question.  ‘You know that “networking” thing you do – isn’t that becoming more and more irrelevant given the rise and rise of social media?’ 

It’s an interesting question – for years, networking has been all about meeting up face-to-face.  In doing so, we build relationships with our networking contacts, and over the course of time we develop those relationships into profitable ones. In BNI, we talk this process in the terms of Visibility, Credibility and Profitability (VCP™).  We start by creating visibility – i.e. we meet someone and get to know them and about their business.  Then comes credibility – we get to know how good they are, what sort of person they are, whether we can trust them.  Having gone through these two steps, it is now possible for a profitable networking relationship to develop.

However, what’s the point of spending time and effort doing that, my friend was intimating, when it is far easier to reach a wide audience online?

The thing is, he is absolutely right – it is possible to reach a wide audience online.   The key Social Media platforms focus on the number of contacts that you have – whether it be connections on LinkedIn, friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter.

But building up connections is only the start of the process.  This will help increase your visibility to a wider audience, but you can’t then just jump straight into profitability.  Credibility must come first – and while it is certainly possible to build credibility online (think recommendations on LinkedIn, or linking to good blog content on Twitter), it is better achieved face to face.  This is because face-to-face networking makes it so much easier to create the depth of relationship required to truly generate credibility.

Think about it – when you sit down for a coffee with another businessperson, and ask them about their business, you find out far more than you will by browsing through their various online profiles.  Nothing beats getting it from the horse’s mouth, if you will.

The best strategy, then, is to combine your networking efforts: firstly, create a wide network by going online – and secondly, create the necessary depth of relationships by networking face to face.  Ignore one – and you’ll be missing out: either it will take longer to increase your visibility, or you won’t generate enough credibility to make your networking profitable.

What do you focus on more – the width or depth of your network?

Charlie Lawson
Charlie Lawson – BNI National Director and Word of Mouth marketing expert, whose passion is to see BNI members succeed in their businesses.

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Willett August 20, 2012 at 09:40

I hear about the ” death of networking” all the time usually from people who don’t want to get out of bed to join a morning networking group. I do meet many of my clients online the relationship doesn’t really grow until we have met in person.

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Charlie Lawson August 23, 2012 at 13:39

Thanks for responding – maybe so! Of course there are other forms of face to face networking as well, and relationships can grow there too: perhaps in a 1-1 meeting for example.

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John Wolforth August 20, 2012 at 13:25

Charlie, with social media you certainly can establish credibility and in the long run, profitablity. However, aspects of your business that are much harder or even impossible to define online are personality and likeability. To truly get to know someone and determine if they are worth doing business with (and whether they feel YOU are worth doing business with), in-the-flesh social networking is required. True rapport is a prerequisite to any successful relationship, business or personal, and can only be established face to face.

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Charlie Lawson August 23, 2012 at 13:40

John – thanks for commenting. You’re absolutely spot on.

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Paul Mitchell August 28, 2012 at 11:53

John, it’s interesting that you say rapport is a prerequisite to any successful relationship. The same is true of the therapeutic relationship. Any psychotherapist, hypnotherapist or counsellor will know that rapport is the most important part of the therapeutic process. And that building rapport starts from the very first telephone call, email or face-to-face meeting, long before formal therapy begins.

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Simon Cox November 10, 2012 at 15:40

100% right Charlie, I firmly believe social media is great for the V, but people online are different when face to face and therefore the C and definately P can be affected.

Great blog article.

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Peter Dean January 20, 2014 at 13:24

Simple text based communication will never replace proper conversation IMHO simply because when you are stood ‘eye to eye’ with your prospect, you pick up on hundreds of little messages that text never will; they may shift their footing when you ask a question they don’t want to answer, look over your shoulder or around the room indicating boredom, fidget with their phone or pen causing you to change your message etc. Yes there is Skype, but even that can be ‘fooled’ as you don’t know what else they are looking at or interacting with. I believe there is a ceiling to what can be achieved on social media, that is sometimes worth breaking through and having a real life conversation about. Whilst some are ok with everything on line (we have clients we have never ‘met’) there are many who still want to check the firmness of your handshake and the cast of your eyes, before signing on that dotted line. Great article!

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Charlie Lawson January 20, 2014 at 15:48

Great comment – you’re absolutely right!

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