by Colleen Flood*
While attending a luncheon in NYC yesterday, I initially sat at an empty table with a colleague from BurrellesLuce. We sat across from each since we are often together and had just had a lengthy chat in the cab ride over. A very nice person came and sat to the left of me and we started chatting. I learned about her business, what types of clients she worked with, where she lived and where she has lived, among other things. I also met the person to the right of me and learned her interesting story as well. I found this sort of face-to-face engagement to be very different from my most recent online networking situation.
First, let me start by saying that using social media as a networking tool is all pretty new to me still. (I have yet to network on #journchat or some of the other networking areas available online, but look forward to getting involved in the future.) However, the Twitter networking event that I did participate in, while interesting and informative, was very fast-paced and, at least for me, also very limited as far as networking opportunities. I could not really get to know the attendees in the way that I would have liked. I met some very interesting people online, don’t get me wrong, but did not take much away from this initial experience. Perhaps I need to network more online or become more immersed in the social media universe to really feel and establish the sort of connections that physical industry events provide.
I think part of feeling a lack of connection can be attributed to feeling as though my online relationships are not real and I often find myself becoming shy towards my online contacts. (And I am guessing, that I am not alone and that others may feel similar.) I can almost compare this to email vs. picking up the phone. I like to talk to people so I will often call a colleague or client to converse about a business matter. However, I find many people have gotten away from this and instead request an email. While email is a wonderful thing and I could not live without it, I have determined that much of the business I do could be done more efficiently and effectively with one simple phone call rather than a string of six emails back and forth. Maybe I’m old fashioned but a conversation whether it’s face-to-face or on the phone helps me to connect and form much more intimate bonds.
Even so, I am thankful for the relationships I have made online. I would likely never have met these people if it weren’t for social media events and look forward to meeting them in real life someday. I do think once I become more immersed in online networking/friendships I will be able to keep up my contacts easily through systems like Twitter. I’ll know more about people by following them and seeing their updates. In the end, social media can be a very powerful and effective tool – helping me build and maintain relationships – but it is just one tool in a much larger communication toolbox.
What are your thoughts on online vs. real-life networking? Do you think one necessarily replaces the other? How do you establish and maintain good relationships regardless of the medium?
*Bio: Colleen Flood has been a sales consultant with BurrellesLuce for over 12 years and is eager to become a more integrated part of the social-public relations community. She primarily handles agency relations in the New York and New Jersey metro-area. She is not only passionate about work, but also about family, friends, and the Jersey Shore. Twitter: @cgflood LinkedIn: Colleen Flood Facebook: BurrellesLuce