So you meet someone at a networking event. They take your business card and maybe some other marketing materials. If they are in any way interested, what do you think is the very next thing they will do? It is really likely that they will look you up online. Sometimes in front of you! This has happened to me many times, where to my surprise they have not waited to return to their office, work-base or wherever, or even to finish the conversation before investigating further.
In those long-forgotten days before the internet came along and took over everything, it used to be that in order to meet people there was no option but to get up off your comfy chair, put your coat on and get out there. Over a couple of decades, the internet and in particular social media, seem to have completely taken over so many of the roles, functions and activities that we used to do face to face.
Now however, I believe we are entering a time of blended contact, where things are more seamless. I for one have noticed a strong return to personal contact and face-to-face meetings, even if the face-to-face is conducted digitally, on skype or similar. There used to be an old adage that: ‘people buy from people’, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is still true. In particular if your business offering involves any kind of trust, long-term relationship, personal interaction, knowledge transfer and in particular anything that is mission-critical to the client’s business operations or future it is really important.
Evidence of this is emerging as groups are increasingly set up on digital platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook whose intention is to facilitate physical meetings, as opposed to being limited to digital interaction. Just recently a local LinkedIn group has started in my region.
I believe we can – in fact I’ll stick my neck out and say should – use our digital presence in a balanced way, though the specific nature of that balance is likely to be different for everyone. It is also subject to change over time and across the spectrum of you and your clients’ variable needs.
Review your digital presence
I would strongly recommend that before you begin networking you review and think carefully about your digital presence. By this I mean: your website; your profiles or setup on any sales or transactional platforms provided by third parties such as eBay or similar; perhaps you use booking or comparison sites and so on; together with all your social media profiles, both business and personal. Try to observe with a new, more independent viewpoint exactly how they are communicating your offering and brand values. In particular look for consistency and accuracy in both image and message.
The information path
We need to think about the overall information path. By this I am referring to the route that your networking contact – and potential customer – will take through the plethora of information that is out there about you, and available to them.
Interestingly, those whom I’ve coached and mentored have reported this exercise to be easier during the time immediately after attending a networking event. It seems to help with being able to imagine specific people looking you up, rather than an anonymous faceless mass or the false assurance of anonymity that we normally assume when posting or commenting online.
Make sure that whatever you have on any digital platform is true, accurate and up to date. I cannot stress this enough, it is so easy to destroy years of work or decades of reputation building in a single tweet, comment or ill-advised selfie. There are enough examples of this constantly reported in the news media that confirm this for you to surely know this is true.
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