How can you link up for coffee with someone who you've only connected with on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? According to an Academia.edu study, there is a tremendous connection between your online and offline relationships. According to their findings, "the average American has 634 ties in their overall network and technology users have bigger networks."
But the question remains, "How well is your online networking actually working?" If you are using technology and social media platforms to build your business, then at some point, you will have to transition into real-world relationships.
As social networking continues to entrench itself into mainstream culture, every small business will need to leverage online influence into offline business results. Mark Schaefer explains in a Social Media Today post, “The social web is an amazing opportunity to create small interactions that lead to larger engagements — meaningful relationships and business opportunity.”
So how do you take online connections, offline? If you are ready to transition online connections into real-world business relationships, here are six practical tips to get started:
- Consider what you have to offer. Are you aware of the unique value you bring to the table that cannot be easily imitated or duplicated? If not, know what you have to offer before moving forward, so you can contribute to the benefit of another – specifically, the person you’d like to get to know.
- Seek to give before you receive. Your end game may be all about you, but that isn't the message your potential contact needs (or wants) to hear. In fact, if it is all about you, you’ll send red flags. And where there’s smoke, there is bound to be fire. Reciprocity is essential to any successful relationship -- if you know your strengths, it is much easier to create value. And when you create value, you set yourself apart. You become relevant. Relevance begets meaningful and profitable connections.
- Listen and join online conversations. Now that you know what you offer and have the right mindset, you can productively listen and join online conversations. Build online rapport and follow people you admire on Twitter, retweet their content, like their statuses on Facebook, endorse their skills on LinkedIn and share their content on Google+. When you’re listening, it shows.
- Be thoughtful in your outreach. We all enjoy connecting on our favorite social networks, but this shouldn’t replace the next step of impactful outreach. You’d be amazed – or maybe you wouldn’t – at the number of folks that will tweet your ear off, but when offered a chance to connect via email, radio silence and tumble weeds abound. Social media is great, but if you can’t put your money where your tweet is you will not be taken seriously.
- Cold emailing? Get to the point. Before you hit send on that email, make sure you’ve done one extremely important thing: revealed your "ask." People are time-crunched. No one has time to guess what you want. In fact, a concise “ask” coupled with a “give” will elicit feedback much quicker than a “Dear Jane” email that could rival a trilogy.
- Secure the all-important phone call. How can you get someone to take your call? For starters, don’t ask if you can pick their brain. Successful people know their time is valuable; time is an investment and you must protect it. As Forbes contributor Adrienne Graham explains, “Not gonna happen, sorry. My brain costs money to maintain … I have to protect my investment.” Now, before some of you grab your virtual pitchforks, consider this: successful people give of themselves freely in many ways -- by way of blogs, articles, social media, conferences, etc. If they gave their ear to every single person that chirped their way, they’d be time-poor and remarkably unsuccessful. Don't be a virtual freeloader; acknowledge the value of their time and yours.
- Bonus: Get an introduction. Like you, I am more likely to respond to an introduction if someone is referred to me by someone I know, like and trust. When you receive an introduction, you essentially “level up” on your social proof. Consider networking from a business standpoint. “Over 70 percent of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase,” writes Gregory Ciotti in a KISSMetrics post. The same concept can be applied when taking online connections offline. When you receive an introduction from a qualified source, you have intrinsically received a positive review. Subsequently, the risk perception of a quick call or strategic partnership being a potential time-suck has exponentially decreased.
Erica Nicole is the founder and CEO of YFS Magazine, the definitive digital magazine for startup, small business news and entrepreneurial culture. As an entrepreneurial change-agent, Erica Nicole been featured in national media outlets including Forbes.com, Upstart Business Journal, Fox Business, MSN Business on Main, The Huffington Post, Black Enterprise and more. Connect with Erica Nicole on Twitter.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.