Ok, so we should probably add in a slight disclaimer here, we obviously are a little biased – after all we do run a website that lists networking groups not only in the UK and Ireland but also across the world. So it kind of goes without saying that we think networking is pretty important. However, having worked with a number of business owners and professionals, we honestly have found that conversions from networking have been far stronger than social media.
Now, that is not to say social networking doesn’t have a purpose and a tremendously important one, but it does have its limitations. Social media is fantastic for two reasons: the first being that it offers an affordable method of reaching a wide group of people and the second being that it allows you to segment your marketing. Marketing has always revolved around creating a unique tone of voice that directly targets your demographic – however, segmented marketing takes that one step further – allowing you to accurately target an audience depending on their age, interests or location.
Of course, we would be remiss at this stage not to discuss LinkedIn which is considered the synthesis of networking and online marketing. A platform on which you can mix and mingle with hundreds of people. However, how well do you really know your 384 connections? Could you explain what each one does and how they do it better than their competitors? Certainly, there is a place for LinkedIn and it can prove to be extremely powerful, but it cannot replace traditional networking where you are able to learn to know, like and trust the person.
Take Chloe for example – Chloe is having her house remodelled and so needs a builder, plumber – the entire slew of tradesmen basically. The first thing she will do is ask her friends and family – do you have any recommendations? Most likely Chloe will then check out their website, online review and social media presence, but it will undoubtedly reassure her that her sister/best friend/friend has spoken or used that person before. And this is why networking has the potential to be powerful. Allowing you to build long-lasting connections, dare we say it even friends. This means that when Chloe asks her wide personal connections, one of them may network with you. This means they see you on a semi-regular basis, connected with you in a professional context and quite possibly (in an ideal world) had a 1-2-1 and have a pretty good understanding of your business. They may even have hired you themselves.
And chances are this referral will be far more powerful tool than social media alone. Now, we are not saying that digital marketing isn’t an incredibly exciting and useful tool that can help you gain more clients, only that it shouldn’t be used at the expense of networking which remains a fantastic way of making connections and expanding your business.