Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stop Going to the Same Networking Events

Why attend the same conference (or networking group) more than once or twice? I have found that most people will gravitate toward people they have already met when in a networking situation. Sometimes it takes more than one meeting to get to the point where you feel like you are “friends” with a few people.

Is this relationship building? At a mixer, you greet each other, exchange pleasantries, ask how business is, etc. Does this face time help you remember a potential vendor? Are you having meaningful conversations that will take that relationship to the next level or are you keeping the relationship warm just in case? We say that getting involved in the organization gives you the opportunity to takes those relationships to the next level. When you actually work with others on a project, event or committee, you get to know them a lot better than just saying ‘hi’ once a month.

You may be thinking to yourself that you are wasting time with the wrong connections. Now, I am a proponent of open networking. You never know when someone who is not currently a potential client will turn into a potential client. Or, you may meet someone “in real life” who is influential online. If you are not part of their circles or communities, you may be missing an opportunity and not know it. However, your boss may be asking you for the ROI of attending that event. How many business cards did you get? Are these qualified prospects? If you gravitate toward the same people you always see, are you missing out on new prospects?

So, in theory, it would be better to stop going to that conference or networking group if you find yourself seeing the same people every time. Find a new group or conference to attend where you don’t know anyone so that you can put more people in your funnel. What are the drawbacks? If your prospects don’t see you at that event anymore will they forget about you? (There are ways to stay in touch with the people you don’t want to lose track of.) It used to be that you felt like you had to exhibit at that tradeshow, even if you weren’t getting any business from it, because the perception of you not being there would cast a negative light. Do you feel that way about the networking events you are attending?

It is hard to always be the new person at an event (especially if the group doesn’t have people that reach out to new folks). That is why we naturally gravitate towards the people we know, it is human nature. If only it were easy to walk up to someone or a couple of people you don’t know and introduce yourself. I do it a lot but it feels awkward and uncomfortable.

What is social media’s role in all of this? Social media can expedite the process from newbie to friend status. I can see who is tweeting at an event and request a meeting with them, or see them at a tweetup at a larger conference. This is one way to meet new people at an event. Social media can also help you stay in touch with people you meet at a conference or networking group. If you “friend” them on FB, you will get to interact with them on things that really matter as opposed to just exchanging pleasantries once a month or once a year.

Speaking of tweetups, I find myself seeking out smaller groups who have organized themselves to meet in conjunction with a larger event. This happens at monthly programs as well as annual conferences. Not only do you gravitate towards the people you know, you want to make sure you see your “friends” at that event. These types of add-on events are great for having a more meaningful conversation with someone and taking that relationship to the next level.

As our industry associations try to keep up with the ways members create new relationships and nurture existing ones, it is important to remember that human nature doesn’t change just because the technology has changed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review of Twittamentary

Social Media Club Los Angeles screened the film: Twittamentary, a documentary about Twitter, directed by Tan Siok Siok (@sioksiok). You can view it here for $3.99 (money raised goes to and you can organize a screening for a club or meetup. The film is an excellent overview of the different ways that people use Twitter and shows that Twitter is just a tool that facilitates human connections. From a citizen journalist to Domino’s Pizza to a homeless woman, twitter is used in vastly different ways and it goes to show that your success with social media tools directly correlates to how well you use them to communicate with other people. There are many stories in the film and I have chosen three to highlight.

Janis Krums (@jkrums) was the first person to tweet a picture of the plane crash on the Hudson River. We now live in a world where there will always be someone at the scene of breaking news with a smart phone (citizen journalists) before a TV crew (professional journalists). Citizen journalists are slowly being embraced by traditional media. The only downfall to this type of information is when it is not vetted before being broadcast. There are times when mis-information gets shared and goes viral. However, in this age of media cynicism, many people would rather see pictures and read stories from “regular” people instead of traditional news organizations. This may be because the traditional news organizations are answering to corporate sponsored agendas instead of the noble cause of reporting the news. Off the topic of Twitter, but related to social media, that is why you are reading this blog and why blogging is such an important part of your marketing strategy.

There have been countless examples of companies using Twitter to respond to customer service questions or complaints, but there are millions more examples of companies who ignore these opportunities. In the film, Ramon De Leon (@Ramon_DeLeon) responds to a complaint about a delivery order from one of his Domino’s Pizza restaurants. He was one of the first people to use Twitter in this way and he has gone on to become a global keynote speaker because he had the vision to use a tool at his disposal to really connect and engage with his customers in a way that almost no one else was at that time. During the networking portion of this event, I met a Corporate Social Intelligence Strategist who explained the process by which a company would monitor what is being said online, but be able to weigh the risk vs. reward of responding to each item. As somewhat of a “purist” I always thought that a company would want to engage with every single customer that took the time to mention their brand, but I guess some would suggest that not all tweets (or tweeters) are created equally. I would love to hear what you think about this strategy.

Speaking of not being treated equally, the homeless population in the United States is often invisible in the sense that most people don’t understand the issue until they have taken the time to get to know someone who is struggling with it. Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) was featured in the documentary and participates in the Social Media Club of Los Angeles. Mark started to raise awareness of homelessness and was able to connect Tan Siok Siok with Anne Marie Walsh (@padschicago), a homeless woman using Twitter to connect with people and make life on the streets more bearable. If you are homeless, you are most likely alone, even if you have managed to identify resources where you can exist with other homeless people. Anne Marie was able to connect with people on Twitter in an attempt to feel less lonely while she was on the streets. Although we hope that we don’t find ourselves in this situation, it really is the best example of how to use Twitter. To use it to communicate with other people is the best way to use it and that is the summary of Twittamentary. Twitter is just a tool and you will get what you give.

Check it out here and let me know if you learned anything about Twitter that you didn’t know already.