Why No Amount of Social Media Can Ever Equal Meeting Face to Face

The focus on building a gleaming Internet presence should never distract from the irreplaceable importance of looking people in the eye.

learn more about Jilliene Helman

By Jilliene Helman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I marvel that, while technology allows us to work from home and interface with one another virtually, the most meaningful connections are still formed in person.

As a CEO, I've reaped the rewards of many face-to-face meetings but I've also struggled to let go of the times I missed an opportunity by not showing up. Our product is online but, when it comes to fundraising and building our network, the most powerful, lasting connections and business opportunities have always happened in real time.

Related: Mastering the Face-to-Face Meeting

The power of in-person. Clients of Realty Mogul, my company, are high net-worth and accredited investors who pool funds to invest in real estate. In our early days, it was essential to get in front of our target market. But unlike some startups, we didn't need to raise capital. We already had $1 million in seed money. We simply needed exposure. I went to every startup pitch event I could find. I needed to secure our brand.

One particular event, a small For Investors By Investors networking event in Manhattan Beach, was pivotal to our company's growth but, truth is, I didn't even want to go.

It was a Tuesday night, I was exhausted from yet another trip and I also knew, at most, 45 people would attendance. But I went and was riveted when Jeremy Roll, founder of FIBI and a longtime real estate and business investor, spoke about passive real estate investments. Soon after that, I launched Realty Mogul and Jeremy became our first and most trusted advisor. Now he's our de-facto chief investment officer.

Related: The Importance of Meeting in Person

Every networking event is an opportunity for serendipity. Recently, I was giving a talk at a real estate crowdfunding conference in San Mateo.A Belgian investor in the area on vacation with his family read stopped by to say hello in person. He's now working to invest a half-million dollars across our platform.

It's so simple and obvious but so important: Putting in the face time and being available to meet potential clients and partners, both at conferences and in one-on-one meetings, has helped our startup grow at an exponential rate. A series of phone calls and emails simply never pays off the same way.

Skipping and losing-out. There was one time when I didn't show up that, months later, still haunts me. At the time, it didn't seem like a big deal. On a night when we had an important company meeting, I sent a colleague to a gathering of senior executives across town. Our fledgling company needed their support and guidance, and as critical as some of them might be to our success, I trusted that someone else could represent our brand as well as I could.

I was wrong. It was still early in our company's growth. We were still hammering out our strategies and business plans. Some of the assembled executives had questions my colleague couldn't answer. Several potential backers and advisors left unimpressed and unwilling to consider us as a potential investment of their time or money. Had I been present, I could have dispelled any misconceptions about our platform. I could have corrected confusion and redirected the conversation.

Balancing when to show up and how to be judicious with my time has been one of the hardest trial-and-error challenges of running a startup. Entire industries exist to help people connect virtually, but I find there's never a substitute for a real-time conversation that ends with a firm handshake.

Related: Make Face-To-Face Time a Priority

Jilliene Helman

Co-founder and CEO of Realty Mogul, real estate crowdfunding marketplace

Jilliene Helman is co-founder and CEO of Realty Mogul, the largest online marketplace for accredited investors to pool money and crowdfund pre-vetted real estate investments.

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