Social networking
Social networking
“I do all my Social networking in my pajamas” – Facebook, Myspace, Linked-In, Twitter.

When someone mentions Social Networking today, these sort of Social Networking sites come to mind. But there is a Social Networking site that maybe you should be going to that can greatly help your business in todays market – AND you have to get out of your pajamas and put on your “casual business” clothes, get in a car, go to your meeting place and conduct your “face to face” Social networking.

Before the internet Social Networking websites became common “hangouts” and places to meet, the original Social Networking had been conducted for years. Maybe you would call it “Old School Social Networking”.

Personally, before I got involved with a local networking group here in Southwest Florida, I viewed this form of “face to face” networking as a wine/cheese/cocktail handshake, small talk and exchange business card event. I allowed this image to deter me from really checking out this form of social networking. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, can complain about the economy, policy, how hard things are, OR broaden the search for ideas or ways to advance your efforts regardless of all these outside influences.

I recently checked out/visited 2 different groups and ultimately joined one. This group is based on and in the business of generating referrals for those within the group. The meetings agenda, rules, guidelines, and approach are all about the premise of generating referrals. Just like the social networking prevalent on the Internet, it is not a process that promises and or delivers immediate results. It utilizes many sound business practices that we all use in business, but it also provides additional structure, and business-like approach that you may not get when social networking thru Internet social network sites.

Joining a local networking group involves the same considerations of any marketing/advertising decisions- cost, return on investment, goal setting etc. Should this be the only means for gaining referrals/new business? NO. (But some members in my group tell me that this is their sole means of gaining new business…)

I am a believer in using/trying multiple marketing channels with the premise that it reduces the reliance on any one marketing channel to help a company succeed. I am in the businesses of working with business owners in the process of selling their business, or those interested in buying a business. To me, the cost to enter or try this method was relatively inexpensive and I really viewed it as a why not.

Key Points when considering a local social networking group

  1. Go, visit, if it makes sense, go again. Why would I continue to go and participate if I didn’t feel I was getting an adequate ROI- I wouldn’t. Finding the right group and forum to network within can prove to be advantageous to your businesses.
  2. Not all these local networking groups are the same- some are the wine/cheese small talk approach. Maybe that works for you and that is great. But if you elect to pursue this marketing effort, don’t fall into the trap of just checking out one, not liking it and then saying that “all these groups are no good.”
  3. The numbers for joing a group may look like this. There may be 30 people in your group, the average business person in the group may have 100-200 +business contacts- thus you have indirect exposure 3000-6000 local business contacts- and maybe you can gain confidence with some 100-200 contacts of those 3000-6000 contacts…
  4. Growing your business and gaining new customers in todays market can require thinking out of the box and trying and implementing various strategies to see what works. Probably most important is how to gain new customers cost effectively. Measure this method vs. other means of gaining new business ie direct mail, Internet, salesperson etc.
  5. This form of “marketing” is not what I would classify as a passive effort. Direct mail may be more of a passive effort and may not require much effort from you than hiring an outside firm. Local networking is an active effort, – the cost of your time should certainly be considered. Also try to measure the intangibles that you gain as well. Much knowledge can be gleaned from interacting with local business professional with like goals of yours.

I handle the buying and selling of businesses, and in my group are an accountant, attorney, carpet cleaner, plumbers, computer service company to name a few. The perspective shared is extraordinarily diverse, but again a common goal is shared.

Any others out there found success with a local social network?

Image by Robert S. Donovan.