How I Used Social Media to Build an Offline Network

by David Finch |

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image by:MarvinKuo

In the summer of 2004, on the hottest day of the year, I loaded up a moving truck, and moved to a city where I had no contacts, no network, and no friends. The only thing I had was a blog and a few early social media tools.

My goal was to hit the ground running with the anticipation of a few bumpy weeks, but with a solid plan it wouldn’t be long before a new network would be built.

The way I achieved this was by listening and reaching out. I set lofty goals to meet new people as well as a plan to maintain these new relationships. At times those goals were met, and other times I fell way short.

Have a Plan
In anything, as well as social media, you’re only as good as your plan. My plan was to use the tools I had to generate an offline meeting. I wanted to add value, participate in conversations and if possible connect in face-to-face meetings. The purpose of meeting face-to-face wasn’t to get something in return, but to listen to the stories of others, their thoughts and ideas, and last but not least, allow them to put a face with a user name. Not to mention, face-to-face meetings produce a connection that online tools can’t produce.

Use the Tools
We are definitely not short on social media tools. The best thing is to find out where your niche group is conversing online and use those tools to connect. Don’t be afraid to try anything. If someone recommends a new tool, try it. If it generates productive conversations, stick with it. If it doesn’t, move on.

If you are new to the social media space, sign up for a Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn account. Join groups within the social media sites that offer them. Turn your passion into a gallery. Register a domain name and setup a blog where you can produce conversation pieces.

Experiment with video and put it on sites such as YouTube and Viddler. At the very least put yourself in a position to be seen and also in a place where you can listen.

Be Consistent
The secret behind networking and social media isn’t necessarily the volume, but the consistency. Connecting one person at time, providing something of value to that person and gaining their trust. Set a goal on how much time you’ll spend using social media tools and be consistent at that.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Rejected
I’m like anyone else, I hate to be rejected. Unfortunately I have a collection of rejection stories as well. The more you engage ideas and relationships, rejection is certain to happen. However, if you continue to follow a simple social media protocol (listen, give, and then receive), you’ll discover that you’ll build a network of healthy relationships.

Listen
The key to success in social media is your ability to listen. It’s not the time to pitch your stuff, but to listen to others and see where you can add value. I’ve always embraced the idea that those that are willing to listen at some point will be invited to speak.

This is a great lesson to learn. If not, you’ll be labeled as a social spammer and not someone that’s truly open to being a part of the conversation.

Add Value
One of the hardest concepts to accept is the reward that comes by giving away something of value to someone else first. It may be introducing people within your network, or sending a tip or idea their way. Whatever method you choose, by giving something of value you’ll have a greater chance of building a network, not just a collection of “friends” and “followers.”

That’s my story, what’s yours?

How are you using social media to build an offline network? What tips would you offer? Leave a comment. I would love to hear your experiences.


About the Author

David Finch