According to a Harvard Business Review blog post entitled, “Three New Networks for the Digital Age,” just having an online network isn't enough.
In this post, I'll explore steps you can take to turn those online contacts to offline business relationships. I'll use the thought of heading to a large event or conference as the stake in the ground so you have a “when and where” for connecting with some of your online contacts.
Here are 8 things you can do to turn social media contacts into offline business relationships.
#1: Get Clear on Your Goals
Start out by using a tool like Evernote to capture some of your thoughts.
Capture what you're currently working on, your current goals, the people you think can help you move your goals forward and what you’re currently looking to learn. (You may or may not actually have a name for your direction, but a title will do—think of creating a networking persona.)
If you're less of the linear type, you can use a mind-mapping tool like MindJet.
Being clear on your goals, the kinds of people who can help you and what you want to learn helps narrow down the list of people in your network with whom you would like to connect.
#2: Gather Your Contacts
Next, you have to set up a system that's going to help you learn as much as you can about your soon-to-be-offline contacts.
Tools like Bizzabo can help pull together your contacts that will be at the event. You can keep track of their social media activity in one location.
Simply look through the list of people going to the event on the Bizzabo app and mark those you would like to meet using the “Mark as Lead” function. You can go back and look at all those in your lead section and then literally place a check mark next to their name when you finally get to meet them in person.
#3: Meet Virtually
After doing the recon and getting a sense of what is going on with your target contacts, the next step is to go from text to video communication.
Video moves you from being another tweet or Facebook message to an actual person. Nothing beats being able to look someone in the eye and see their expression/reaction to something you just said. You just can't get that with Twitter or Facebook.
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Of course you can never tell if someone is dressed nicely from the waist up while wearing PJ bottoms, but that shouldn't matter. The trick to video chat as you move your relationship closer to meeting face to face is a little bit of preparation and a whole lot of curiosity about the other person.
You want to learn their backstory, but for that first chat, don't take too deep of a dive and ask them to tell you their deepest, darkest secret. Yes, someone actually asked me that on our first Skype call.
#4: Remember People
You're a busy professional and one of the biggest challenges in keeping a network alive is to remember to reach out. There are several tools you can use to help you set up reminders.
Contactually lets you choose the frequency of your interactions with your contact and sends you a message if you haven't reached out in the selected time-frame.
The idea here is to put yourself in a “set it and forget it” mode while still staying top of mind before actually meeting in person.
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#5: Acknowledge People
Let people know that you're looking forward to meeting them in person. You can leverage Twitter to send a quick message like, “Hey @Joe, great Skyping with you. Can't wait to meet you in person at #SMMW15.”
There's no doubt that there are people you would like to meet, but haven't connected with yet. Put out the following message: “Who else is going to Social Media Marketing World in March?”
Once you get a response, you can reply and also take the opportunity to put your recon (see step #2) skills into action to learn more about the person who replied to you. Is he/she someone you would like to connect with in person?
Start following the person on different social media platforms, listen to his/her social media conversations and propose a 15-minute Skype session to get to know each other better.
#6: Connect People
This advice is valuable because you want to be known as a giver; someone who will help others solve problems by introducing them to people with the expertise they're looking for.
Groups on different social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn serve as an excellent place to ask questions like, “Does anyone in our group focus on podcasting for beginners? If so, I'd love to chat for 5 minutes.”
Once you validate connections, ask them if they mind if you introduce them to someone who could use their expertise.
The introduction can sound something like this: “Joe, meet Sue. I thought with your mutual interest in podcasting, it made sense that you two know each other. I'll let you take it from here.”
You may not have both parties' email addresses, but if you're all on Facebook, a private message to both is a great way to go.
#7: Have Fun and Capture the Moment
Be sure to capture the moment when you finally turn your online contact to an offline relationship, or as I like to call it, turn #HashtagsToHandshakes.
Path is a great way to share information and link it to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr. Path serves as an excellent recordkeeper because of its search functionalities. It's handy when you want to go back and research exactly when you first met someone face to face and at what event.
#8: Attend Conferences
An excellent opportunity to turn your online contacts to offline contacts is at conferences. They already serve as a natural filtration system based on the topic of the conference.
I’ll be helping facilitate in-person contacts at Social Media Marketing World. I hope to meet you there!
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As you’d expect, Social Media Examiner recruited the biggest and best names in the world of social media marketing for this conference. Only the best for you! Be sure to check it out.
Watch this video to get a quick overview of Social Media Marketing World.
What do you think? What's the next event or conference you'll be attending? What tip(s) above will you experiment with? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.
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