A few months ago, I attended Social Media Marketing World (SMMW16) in San Diego. Prior to the event, there were multiple opportunities to connect with other attendees on social media. With more than 3,000 people from all over the world expected to be at SMMW16, I thought it would be advantageous to connect with other people prior to the event, so I could be a bit more strategic with my networking. Because let's face it, there was no way this introvert was going to even come close to meeting 1% of everyone at this event.
I took the recommendations from Social Media Examiner to use Slack, and I started following people who used the hashtag #SMMW16 on Twitter. I joined a few groups on Slack that were related to my industry and profession, but also a few that were personal interests of mine like fitness, CrossFit and craft beer. After a few days, I got really into the conversations and started to get excited that all these people were following me on Twitter. I thought that this was a good virtual introduction and that when these people saw me in person, they would just come right up to me! I made sure my photo on my profiles were recent and clear to see, and that all of my descriptions had information about my job along with some personal interests.
When we arrived to San Diego and walked into the unofficial networking pre-party, hundreds of people packed into a dimly lit bar area. I guess my imagination is wild at times, and I assumed that people would just start coming up to me since we connected on multiple social media networks only weeks prior. Well, I can say that not one person did. Being the introvert I am, along with exhaustion that started to set in from traveling plus the time change, I quietly nestled into a corner, sipping my confidence through a straw. Eventually, a few conversations struck up with people who were also clearly introverts, but I couldn't help to think that all the virtual networking was superficial. I was sort of disappointed with all the time and effort I invested in connecting with people.
Good thing there's always tomorrow
A good night of sleep and a few cups of coffee later, I was on my way to meet up with some people from one of the Slack groups I joined about Facebook Ads. I contemplated not going – go figure, you introvert – but I got the courage to silence those thoughts. I walked up to a small coffee shop where three people greeted me with a smile. I had coversations with a few of these people on Slack, but I was really interested in engaging in deeper conversations face-to-face and learning more about Facebook Ads.
Social networking mixed with in-person, face-to-face communication was a game changer for the rest of the conference!
After a few hours of really getting to know these people, two of them invited me to meet up with them again. Our connection and interests were spot on, and we saw value in continuing the relationships we just started. While standing in a line at the convention that same day, I struck up a conversation with a woman, who come to find out, was also from Florida. Within minutes of discussing, where we were from, our work and hobbies, we decided we wanted to connect again during the conference!
DING! I received a notification from someone I met in another Slack group. "Hi, let's plan to meet up later at the networking event." Within minutes of meeting face-to-face with someone who I connected with on social media based upon our common interest of CrossFit, we struck up a great conversation. I was so happy that I invested time in social networking prior to attending this event.
Within less than 24 hours of being at this event with people from all over the world, I made 4 extremely valuable relationships with people all because I was myself, I was intentional with getting to know them and what they did, and I tried to show value.
Why Should You Care?
Networking on social media can be extremely beneficial. You just need to make sure you make an effort when seeing these people in real life. Our Chief Idea Guy, Bryon McCartney, recommends in his Ditch the Pitch article to "always be prepared to talk about W.H.E.N.: your work, hobbies, education and network." The next time you connect with someone on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, try getting to know them with the W.H.E.N. formula. Then, ask that person how you can help them. Who can you connect them with or how can you add value to their life? The next time you see them in-person, talk to them. Don't just be the person that connects just to have another friend or follower. Connect to add value in someone's life whether that is professionally or personally.
Below are some photos from SMMW16 and the beginning of friendships with the great people I met while visiting San Diego for the very first time.
Want to learn more about networking? Check out our other brilliant blog posts!
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