Social media participation has proven a great way to cast a wider net, create exposure for your expertise and initiate relationships with partners, supplies, prospects and customers.
But, few things build the trust necessary to take a surface relationship made in a LinkedIn Group or Facebook Fan Page to the deeper levels often required for someone to whip out the checkbook, like face-to-face interaction.
The buzz right now is all about social media. Most small businesses, however, will get the greatest bang for their social media buck when they think in terms of merging their online and offline networking and marketing.
Here are five ways to maximize what your doing online to make it pay offline.
1) Build local networks
Cruise the social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn to find people to connect with and follow locally. The chances of you having the opportunity to meet for coffee or at a Chamber event are far greater if the distance is smaller.
2) Create and attend social media aided events
Sites like Biznik and MeetUp allow you to create and promote local, in person events. This is a great way to start putting together local workshops and mastermind groups and tap into the network and resources these sites make available. In some communities the membership in these kinds of networks is so strong they can fill your events for you through their promotion tools.
The flip side is to use these tools to locate events that other locals are putting on and attend appropriate ones as networking events.
3) Let offline folks know how to connect
Plaster your social media participation and connecting profiles on business cards and stationary, phone directory ads, print ads, marketing materials and email signature.
You can probably do a better job of spreading this kind of thing to your online assets and profiles as well.
4) Network offline, connect online
If you attend trade shows, Chamber mixers and referral groups, collect those business cards and do your normal “great to meet you at last night’s event” email or handwritten note, but then track your new contacts down and connect with them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well.
You will find it much easier to communicate and build trust when you are connected on and offline.
Check out ACT! 2010 and BatchBook CRM software too. These two offerings make it very easy to add the social media activity for your prospects into their contact record. This way, the next time to plan to reach out to them you can easily scan what they’ve been up to.
5) Teach your offline networks
If you’ve got even the tiniest handle on this social media stuff you’re probably ahead of many of your customers, suppliers and strategic partners.
Why not offer some free social media training sessions. It doesn’t matter if you’re an attorney or a contractor, social media education is one of the hottest topics going at the moment. Even if you approach it as a way for you and your customers to learn together, the bonds you can build while you learn will be invaluable.
Imagine getting a group of current and potential strategic partners together to teach them a confusing and changing topic? Who do you think they’re going to think of next time they make a referral?
Image credit: BAIA
John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing.