This post was written by guest author John McGrann.
Is social media networking in conflict with, or complementary to, traditional networking?
The reason I ask is because I have recently joined a formal networking group here in Dubai. I am noting many similarities and some differences with the basics of social media networking. I also sense that generally there is a belief that you engage in one or the other. It’s the ‘old’ versus the ‘new.’ But maybe in the future the best way is to engage neither social media networking nor traditional networking alone – but in ‘total networking’.
Social media networking and marketing is the process of promoting your website or business through social media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and many more. It is a powerful strategy that will bring you connections, attention and increased amounts of website traffic and ultimately leads for your products or services. It is powerful in building business partnerships locally and globally. Social media networkers need to have a systematic approach to building a large network and targeting their niche audience within it. It includes selecting the best media sites, establishing a presence, growing your virtual network and nurturing relationships. If all that works then keep those plates spinning!
Traditional networking involves formally structured groups meeting on a regular basis with well proven successful processes in place. Most activities take place within the group or chapter. However, connections can be made to other chapters within a reasonable distance. Other members of the group will act as your salesperson generating referrals and new business. Membership is paid annually but should be recouped early.
Both forms of networking generate new connections and new business. They are both based on the premise that we wish to do business with people we know, we like and we trust. They each have a softly approach to engaging connections in our sales process. Strategies are long term and hard sellers and spammers are not welcome.
There are differences, of course. Social media sites are free and accessed from the comfort of your home or office. Building networks and targeting audiences is much easier via social media sites. This applies to customers and business partnerships alike. Joining relevant customer conversations, sharing knowledge and getting help is also much easier online. But traditional face-to-face networking is so powerful and nurturing relationships online is THE serious weakness of social networking. The proven structures and processes in traditional networking yield great results too. Social media prospecting without a system can be time wasteful and frustrating.
The way ahead is to engage in both forms as total networking. Using the strengths of each to address the weaknesses of the other seems the way to go. Add some enablers such as Instant Messaging and Online Meeting software to the mix too. So which form of networking is the best? I don’t know – nor do I care.
They are two sides of the same coin.
John McGrann is a certified social media specialist and owns Drive ERP, a company geared toward helping businesses with Oracle, SAP and other ERP needs. He has also has experience in finance and business leadership/marketing. Find out more about John on Twitter or his blog.