Today you’ll read hundreds (if not thousands) of bloggers and pundits talking about the glories of social networking. They point to the engagement benefits, measuring the growth of the brand online and other non-monetary ROI factors. These folks aren’t necessarily wrong. However people must remember this is only one aspect of the marketing mix and companies should never ignore good old fashioned offline social networking opportunities either.
As a new company with products and services that are delivered exclusively over the web it’s a good idea to still network as much as possible offline. As great as LinkedIn and all the other online networking tools are, there’s no better place to establish credibility than in person, face to face (as I tell you this via the web, in my second-ever blog post, riiight ;).
If you’re a new business in town, join the local chamber of commerce. Seek out as many offline networking opportunities as possible and simply through meeting other small business owners you will learn so much outside your day-to-day business activities whether it’s about the business or general area. Even if there’s no immediate revenue tied directly to the activity it doesn’t mean there’s no ROI. If they know you’re there, that’s one more person than before you networked and therefore the return on your investment is awareness.
Just like the social media pundits talking about non-monetary ROI, the awareness gained by being further established in the marketplace does not have a price tag. A simple formula to go by: Awareness + Trust = Revenue.
Even if they aren’t going to do business with you, networking with area business owners is typically not a zero sum game so chances are you’ll both win down the road.
Offline networking enhances your online presence immeasureably by building trust face-to-face. You know the person on the other side of the screen, whether they are your customer or vendor. You could have the most brilliant online social networking strategy with a budget to match but trust is not something that is easy to come by. It has to be earned over time and takes a certain level of credibility, particularly with an unknown company in the online environment.
To get your online marketing strategy off and running in the right direction, don’t start with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or the social media platform du jour. Start by meeting your neighbors and go from there. You and your bottom line will be happy you did.