Building a network: taking offline connections online
The basic idea of social networking is to interact people who have similar interests to you. It can be just to meet interesting people, to catch up, to ask or provide help later, to make business together. As in many professional fields, knowing people can help open doors and also a create a shortcut.
Especially on certain areas of digital marketing, where many different scenarios can happen and there is little formal studies, the right people can give you a hand to solve problems. It’s not always an easy activity to leave your comfort zone. But in order to get the benefits of social networking, you have to. I did recently and the tips presented in this article help me do my good job.
As everything else in life, the first time can always be a bit confusing, but we always learn something to make things easier for future experiences, until the moment you can’t believe a certain activity used to be complicated one day. I’m sure you’ve been there.
When I went to Friends of Search in 2016, my first marketing conference ever, I was excited and also a bit confused. I definitively learned from speakers. But during the breaks, I wondered: “do all these people knew each other already?”. I had a couple of chats but honestly didn’t make many good connections until the beer time started. At this point, I realised that many people didn’t know other and most people were open to chat and exchange ideas.
Thinking about the experience after the Friends of Search, I could process the advice I got from the very first person who talked to me there. It now helps me in other events I have attended.
Attending conferences or other events: talk to strangers!
What Maurits Van Der Does from NewPeople told me is true: don’t be shy, talk to everyone. Say hi, present yourself and shake hands with strangers. Two of the main reasons people attend conferences are: learn from speakers and to meet new people. I’ve even heard from a speaker that during conferences he is more interested in networking than what he actually learns from speakers. Think about the basic subjects surrounding every marketer world:
- What do you do and for which company do you work for?
- Did you like [speaker] presentation?
- Do you often come to events like this?
- Who else are you interested in seeing today?
This is a basic conversation that could lead to many other interesting topics. You might already find a personal bond in a couple of minutes. You probably will find this person again later in the day or in other events and meet more interesting people through them.
From offline to online: make a quick connection
After meeting a large group of people, it’s also easy to forget about some of them. Creating an online connection right away will help you making the best of this connection. Twitter and LinkedIn are two of the most interesting and professional ways to start. It pays off to have a good internet connection to make this first contact easier, so don’t trust just the Wi-Fi as in some conferences, its not the best.
You can also predict a potential real world connection about to happen, starting from online to offline. Start following the event hashtag prior and during to the event to have a chance to meet people who are or will be just next to you. Laura Crimmons published a post about 8 tips to get the best out of conferences and I follow almost all of them. I must admit, there is one I always forget: to bring a charger or to have a power bank to keep my phone alive while I’m interacting with other attendees.
I have another offline tip to complement Laura’s list. It’s definitely the least important but still an effective way to break the ice or make yourself a bit more likeable: offer a small treat. I used to live in The Netherlands and I handed out many of the Dutch traditional stroopwafels in events. Keep in mind this is just a nice gesture, nothing more, but can be a tiny extra social point for you.
Ways to keep in touch after the first meeting
After an event, I like to have the basic information about who I met in a spreadsheet: name, country, niche, LinkedIn, Twitter and if I connected and contacted them after the event.
For each event or group, I have a private Twitter list where I can filter tweets just from them. It’s a good way to not let the initial bond get cold and also help you to better follow trends and important news in your expertise fields since there is a common interest among you and them.
Another way to make this approach interesting for your contacts is to publish a blog post about the event. This is a win-win: on one side you have a good reason to get in touch and on the other, you’re providing content that these people are very interested in. You potentially will have this content amplified by them. It’s a great way to save this valuable information for yourself.
If for any reason you can’t publish, keep it simple: just thank them for the time spent together or share something valuable (a book, a blog, a podcast, etc.) about the conversations you had. This is how I discovered Nathalie Nahai, “The Web Psychologist”, podcast series, the weekly #SEMRushchat on Twitter and the following edition of Learn Inbound, which I’m attending for the second time this year in October.
You’ll most likely meet many of these people in future events and they can potentially be starting points to connect you with new people and vice-versa. Prior to the next event, you can already start creating buzz, building excitement and know who you’re going to meet again. These interactions can be as simple as a Tweet or more complex as scheduling a meeting, working on a project together, sharing secrets in an area of mutual interest, etc.
So, to wrap it up my to-do list when attending an event:
- Talk to strangers
- Create an online connection quickly
- Be friendly and follow-up based on topics interesting for them
- Keep in touch both on a personal and professional level
There are still many marketing events happening this year in many cities around USA, France, Germany, The Netherlands, UK and Ireland. If you want to test my suggestions above, check our list of events and go networking!