Some of your business relationships may develop solely through social media; most of the time, however, meaningful engagement in social media doesn't happen in social media alone, but when you participate eagerly in extra–social media activities -- where you run a good chance of meeting your social media contacts in person and forging the kind of long-term relationships that yield good business.
Fortunately, you enjoy a wide berth in how you wish to go about combining your social media participation with your off-line networking: Because different social media channels facilitate face-to-face follow-up differently, you have options to fit your style. The possibilities are many, and social media is bigger than the big three social media destinations, but to keep this blog entry from growing too long, we'll cover just these three.
Facebook features a constellation of opportunities to interact. From commenting continually, to sharing all manner of media with your contacts, you benefit from a robust baseline opportunity to interact, and through an interface that is highly intuitive even to the uninitiated. (The greater challenge on Facebook, in fact, is not finding ways to interact, but avoiding too much interaction.)
As you delve ever deeper into the tool, the social nature of Facebook takes on several dimensions and grows increasingly dynamic. And with this multidimensional, increasingly dynamic interactivity grow the odds that someone, somewhere, who is in need of sitting down for the purposes of discussing business with someone like you, will ask to do just that -- with you.
Because Facebook is already conducive to easy-to-grasp interactivity, some may find it better-suited than Twitter to eventually meeting social media contacts off-line. But even Twitter, with all its abbreviations and shortcuts -- arcane knowledge to the newbie -- complements off-line networking and prospecting; in fact, used properly and among peers equally savvy in the use of social media, Twitter networking is indispensable to people relations, actually enhancing off-line activity with online goings-on running parallel to the off-line experience.
Do Facebook and Twitter still scare you? Does the thought of immersing yourself in their environments, let alone finding yourself face-to-face with your resulting contacts, make you feel awkward, even kind of funny and weird inside? Then start by using LinkedIn to combine your online presence with your off-line activity, whether that be networking, one-to-one prospecting or something else related.
I'm all about LinkedIn, and you should be, too. Sure, LinkedIn enables you to build a social media–enabled, newfangled Rolodex. In and of itself, that is boring, but thankfully, the functionality of LinkedIn extends well beyond access to information on the professional background of your contacts. Through LinkedIn groups, especially regional groups, you can find teeming clusters of networking professionals who meet in person on a regular basis.
Just conduct an advanced search of LinkedIn groups to find what you're looking for and request to join the groups that make the most sense for you. Once a member of the group, you'll have the option of receiving daily or weekly e-mails that compile the group's activity -- which, typically, will include posts about upcoming networking events.
Are you feeling enterprising, maybe even brave? For the purposes of growing their numbers, most communities that combine their online presence with off-line activity combine their use of more than one social media networks, as well. An effective networking-focused LinkedIn group, for instance, will encourage members to follow the group's Twitter profile so that they may receive quickly digestible updates regarding networking events, etc. It's just one of myriad ways that the technologically literate cross-pollinate between social media networks and grow their sphere of influence both online and off-line.