For the past couple of years, I’ve been helping others to market effectively online, having done this for my own businesses since 1996. One of the interesting trends I’ve noted is the fact that some people (and companies) spend a lot of time and effort working on their online presence, at the expense of “real world” interaction.
Social media (or “new media”, if you prefer) tools and platforms aren’t intended to supplant face-to-face interaction and networking, but to ENHANCE them.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Perhaps you really don’t want to meet and engage in a personal manner. The only valid example I can think of is if you are a full-time eBay seller and you never meet customers or you happen to provide a product that doesn’t require much trust or a relationship to sell (not sure what that might be – perhaps paper clips or straws?).
However, for the rest of us, those of us who want to make an impact, or to have a wide network of friends and resources, you need to get out and press the flesh when you can. Sorry – I guess “press the flesh” sounds a little vulgar or old-fashioned these days. It’s best to make an effort to meet and speak with real, live people. Better?
I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, especially since we have a large family and it’s not always easy to make time for travel and/or events. That being said, I thrive on working a crowd at an event, especially when I know a good number of people already. It energizes me.
My son thinks I’m already pretty famous. Of course, I don’t want to dispel this notion too much, but I am clearly not Ashton Kutcher or even Clint Howard (Google that one if you like). I once saw Chris Brogan speak to a crowd of about 300 people, and it put things in perspective for me when he asked, “How many people here know me personally?” There were a few hands that went up. Then he asked, “How many people here FEEL like you know me?” Almost every hand in the room went up. To me, this is a good way to gauge if you’re doing things right with your online efforts. It’s one thing to build a tremendous number of followers, but it’s quite another for them to actually care about you as a human being or about your company.
I joked a few days ago on Twitter that I think there should be an award given for “Most Followers with the Least Engaged Audience”. There are many hundreds of accounts vying for this title. I like to equate this type of “blind broadcast” to having the chance to speak at halftime during the Super Bowl while the entire audience puts on blindfolds and those fancy noise-cancellation headphones. What a waste! If you want to actually grow a business, or make valuable connections, or basically build any real influence at all, face-to-face goes a long way, especially when combined with an engaging online presence.
Can you build a solid audience without meeting everyone in person? Of course you can, but it will grow faster and bond more quickly when you’re out and about, shaking real hands and giving real hugs. Even politicians do that. You want to be more trusted than a politician, right?
Just some food for thought…
Image credit: Jerry (found on Flickr.com)