Virtual Networking is Still Real

Over the weekend I was reading an article about the relationship between social capital and social networks. The sentence containing the authors definition of a social network began with:

A social network—real world kind not the virtual kind… (emphasis is mine)

I’ll be honest, I had a hard time paying attention to the rest of the article because I believe this is a fundamental flaw in the way people think about using social media for business.

This is akin to saying face-to-face conversations are real, but phone calls are not. Social media (online, virtual, etc.) tools are not different types of networks. They are tools to help you connect, communicate, and collaborate with members of your network(s).

The strength of the relationship between you and the members of your network is not dependent upon where your interactions take place; it has to do with the nature and qualities of those interactions.

When you attend a Chamber of Commerce event, you have a different relationship with each of your fellow members. Some of them you know quite well, you’ve done business with them, and you often meet with them outside of the chamber events.

Others you know by sight. You say “hi” and you may know what they do, but you wouldn’t say you have a “relationship” with them.

My point is you can have shallow relationships in person and you can have deep relationships online. Many business owners are starting to realize that their best business relationships are not confined to one or the other but rather use a blend of online and offline communications to their mutual benefit.

The same thinking applies to marketing plans. You don’t need a marketing plan and a social media marketing plan. You need a marketing plan that takes all advantage of all of the communication tools that will help you communicate with your ideal customers.

If you want to use social media to grow your business, it’s time to stop thinking about it as a “separate thing” and think about using it as another tool to communicate and network.

  • Bill Doerr

    Bill — a social media is not our network, it’s a means of connecting with the people who know, like and trust you.  I like your take on this . . . that it’s the relationship quality and not the means of accessing and nurturing it that matters most.  A great post with good insights, as usual.