As a twentysomething publicist and marketing strategist, my life is digital. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest and Reddit. I Skype rather than call, send emails instead of letters and get a good laugh anytime anyone asks for our fax number. With all the technology out there, it seems like everything you need to run a successful company can be found online. But there’s one thing the Internet cannot replace: face-to-face networking.
While platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter brought networking online, there is still no substitute for in-person meetings. A strong online presence is great for increasing discoverability and making connections, but solidifying a relationship requires human contact. Many authors and publishers discover Kaye Publicity through our Tumblr or Facebook presence, but none of them signed with us without arranging for a phone call or in-person meeting. The journalists and radio people I’ve met through social media know my name and what I do, but that doesn’t mean they automatically respond to my emails or phone calls. The media pros who cover our clients more frequently and always respond to my emails are the ones I’ve met in person.
For most business owners, networking isn’t high on their list of priorities. They are too swamped running their company to think about attending networking events or arranging meetings. When social media became a new way of life, many small business owners breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, they could build a network and make connections without leaving their office. But social media is only a piece of the networking pie.
Use yourself as an example. Think about the service providers you employ: your accountant, lawyer, realtor, etc. How many of those people did you find through Facebook or LinkedIn? How many were referrals from friends and family members? How many of those people did you meet in person prior to hiring them?
No matter what industry you’re in, the key is ensuring your business name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Don’t focus solely on targeting potential customers. It’s important to cast a wide net and make as many connections as you can. Everyone has something to offer and you never know who you’ll meet.
We’re lucky to live in a city with hundreds of networking opportunities. Start by contacting your chamber of commerce. Invite other business owners in your neighborhood out to lunch or coffee. Look at Meetup to find professional groups or networking events. The digital age is great for research, but when it comes to making strong connections, nothing beats face to face.
Dana Kaye is the owner of Kaye Publicity, a boutique PR company specializing in publishing and entertainment. She is also the creator of the Chicago Literati Networking Event where booksellers, authors, and publishing pros gather to mingle and network. For more, visit www.KayePublicity.com.