Want to Really Network? Stop Using Social Networks While social-media sites have obviously been a boon for startups, there's no replacement for an old-fashioned handshake.
Relationships: They don't make them like they used to.
Sign in to Facebook. Tweet, pin stuff and then spend a few minutes on Google+. Okay, time for a coffee, and then a LinkedIn update. Networks are formed, and relationships are established.
There's no doubt that online social networks are an extremely valuable form of communication, as well as key to building and maintaining professional relationships. But for all of the power that social networks hold, they still can't compete with the influence and intensity of personal connections.
As we head into the busy conference season -- Social Media Week is around the corner -- getting out there and pressing the flesh rather than wading around on the web should prove even more beneficial.
The reason? There is a certain intimacy involved in meeting people in person and shaking their hand. Speaking to someone face-to-face (and not through Skype) establishes a bond that is potentially even more potent and long-lasting than meeting someone virtually. And you never know whom you might meet -- from investors to co-founders to mentors -- the possibilities are endless.
For those in need of a refresher course on how to meet people and connect in person, these tips are for you:
Get out of the house/dorm/office
Beyond conferences, there are so many opportunities for in-person networking that it's almost impossible to list them all. The first step is to literally go outside, away from your computer. And though the obvious industry meetups or panel discussions should be at the top of your list, consider more unlikely meeting grounds too. If you travel with any frequency, for instance, spend some time in an airline lounge.
Get involved with your community and maybe volunteer at a nonprofit organization. Make networking fun by attending parties and dinners with colleagues. You can also take advantage of online networks to help facilitate actual meetings.
But when you do meet people in person, be prepared. Have some business cards ready at all times. Have your elevator pitch geared up. Be genuine. Be personal. Be professional. And when you are engaged in a one-on-one with someone? Turn off your phone.
Really get to know people
Meeting people and getting to know them are two different tasks entirely. You're not simply recognizing a blog post about their new project with a click. You have the chance to really communicate here, so take it.
Ask them personal questions and offer personal information about yourself. Remember, people like to do business with people that they know and trust.
This process shouldn't be artificial, however. Genuinely care about those around you and you'll emanate an aura of integrity and reliability. Put yourself out there to everyone you meet, not just those you identify as potential clients or associates. Even if they never personally become a customer or colleague, they know people. And those people know people.
Do you practice old-school networking? What do you feel are the differences between meeting someone face-to-face or online? Let us know with a comment.