It’s easy to command ROI metrics for an online social networking campaign but when was the last time you were told to turn in a report to prove the value of your offline networking? Is it a total loss if you don’t come back with a few qualified leads? Definitely not. Just because social media is the new shiny toy doesn’t mean that it can ever replace real human interaction. So after you adjust your eyes to the sun and shave off your beard, here’s a few ways to always make sure you’re always getting the most out of your next conference or event by combining online and offline networking.
Quantitative and Qualitative Goals
Who would you rather follow up with after an event? Someone with a goal of getting 20 business cards OR someone with a goal to ask you a few questions about your business because they’re genuinely interested. The end goal of each may be make money and build business but it’s obvious you’d want to spend your time in a conversation rather than a sales pitch. Quantitative goals may get you a few more business cards up front BUT a business card is only as good as the relationship behind it. You might as well stay home and make 20 cold calls instead.
What gives you the right?
Just because you have a Twitter account that enables you to talk directly to an influencer doesn’t give you the right to ask for a Retweet to their thousands of followers. You can’t rely on location (online or offline) as the only thing you have in common with the other person. Especially when the intent is self serving. Here’s a simple truth to apply to any business event: The easier it is to get in, the more you need to be prepared to give up-front. In other words, what gives you the right to follow up with that fantastic prospect you just met?
Study Before; NOT After
Remember that old saying, “People do business with people they know, like and trust”? Why not get to KNOW the attendees online BEFORE going to that event or conference you have coming up? If there’s a registration list, find it. Events and groups such as Meetup, Facebook, Linkedin and Eventbrite all have RSVP lists. Check them out! If there’s a hashtag (#) for the event on Twitter, follow it! The simple purpose of finding who is attending the event before-hand is so you won’t have to spend all your time figuring it out during the event.
Figure out where they live… online
There’s a noticeable difference between being perceived as creepy as opposed to informed when researching people online. It’s just genuine interest and there’s no substitute for it. Take time to find out where (or if) they enjoy spending time online. Start with a simple Google search of their name or company. Going back to know, like and trust, how much easier would it be to connect with someone at an event by continuing the conversation you’re already having online? Now that you have the the ‘know’ and ‘like’ down, you can start to earn trust.