At first, social media was purely social. And then businesses discovered the power of social networking. They jumped on board, made some mistakes and finally settled down to make a serious impact on their bottom line. All this happened a long, long time in the past… at least six months ago. The use of social media for businesses is still in its infancy and is obviously still in rapid evolution. There is plenty of analysis on what impact social media is having on business, marketing and sales. What about the impact that online, social networking is having on face to face business networking?
They Haven’t Integrated It
A study by SmartBrief, an online media company that aggregates industry newsletters, surveyed 3,000 online businesses shows that the vast majority have been using it for less than 18 months. They are probably still learning how to use the ever-changing features and interfaces. The “computer” part of it is probably still in the way of using social media for making personal connections and communicating more directly with customers and clients. While the front-running adopters are now making social media an integrated part of their marketing, sales and networking programs, the rest are still learning the process much less the personal nuances of relationship-building using social media tools.
Confidence Takes Time
In the same survey, the majority of companies who had been in social media for 2 or more years said they felt confident with their strategies. But only 10% of those who had been in it for 18 months or less felt confident. For those who are new to networking whether it is online or in person, this shows that there is a learning curve. We can assume that those who felt confident have been working on their social media on a consistent basis. Since no one has done a study of confidence levels on personal networking, perhaps we can use this as a benchmark and say that 12 to 18 months of steady effort is a reasonable guideline for building business to business networking skills.
Broadcasting Not Connecting
Another very interesting part of the research showed that while a majority of long-term users felt confident with their program, they were still using it more like advertising and less like networking. More of them were interested in increasing traffic to their website and building brand awareness than listening to and identifying customer needs. This has been an age-old problem with face to face networking and it doesn’t seem that the social networking experience – at least right now – is going to help train us to be less sales-oriented and more relationship-oriented in our personal networking either.
While many companies and blogs are focused on looking forward at how social media is impacting business, it’s interesting to look back and see how social networking influences and impacts our personal, face to face networking. Looks like it is still evolving, but heading to an interesting place.