Success in this age of technology means networking in person, as well as online. A combination of both will increase your social reach exponentially. Plus, it’s fun to meet people at events and then continue the conversation online; or make connections with people in different parts of the world while aiming to meet them in real life one day.
“Social and live networking can be used together to build relationships like never before,” explains Babette Pepaj, Founder & CEO of BakeSpace, Inc and CookbookCafe.com. “When you meet someone face-to-face, you can stay connected and follow their endeavors through social media. Likewise, when you get to know someone through social media and then meet face-to-face, you hit the ground running and can quickly build an even more meaningful connection.”
Pepaj adds, “The key to success is ensuring that you have the same genuine persona both online and in the real world.”
So where to meet people? Online: through Twitter, groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and Google Plus communities. Plus, many conferences and panels put up the social links of their speakers, so you can connect before a big meeting.
Then, there’s the old standard – meeting through mutual friends. I’ve often heard it said: Twitter is for new friends, Facebook is for friends you already know. If there’s an expert in your industry you’d like to meet, start by seeing if you have a friend in common who can introduce you. You can also follow them on Twitter, send a message, and start a conversation.
Looking to expand your live network? Here are some recommendations.
Try to attend at least one or two events every month. I aim for one or two events a week. In Los Angeles, some nights there are more than three or four events competing for attention. Even those who live in smaller cities can find places to meet people in real life. Check with your Chamber of Commerce, local library, or Meetup groups to find events that meet your interests. You can even start your own group.
Every now and then, attend a meeting that’s a little out of your specific area of interest, in order to meet a different group of people. Remember, the people you meet may not be your audience, customer, or reader … but they might know the people who are. Or you might just make a new friend.
If feasible, attend one conference a year with other people in your industry, whether or not it’s local. Be sure to connect with them before the meeting and follow up after.
Speaking of which …
Before you attend an event, ask if anyone in your real and virtual network is also attending, so you can be sure to meet. Inquire via status update, tweet, or email, if anyone knows others who are speaking or who will be there.
After each event go through your business cards and connect with the people you meet on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Not everyone likes to connect at a personal level on Facebook right away, but go ahead and support them by liking their fan pages.
Mutual friends – and mutual interests – are just conversation starters. The rest is up to you.