Is Social Networking Really that Different from Face-to-Face?

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Anyone who has tried to build a business knows how important it is to build awareness. If your customers don’t know you’re out there, how are they ever going to buy from you? So, how do you build awareness? Advertising is one way but you can also network. If you’re a business with a local customer base, you may already belong to a Chamber of Commerce or a networking group like BNI (Business Network International). So, what’s the equivalent of a Chamber of Commerce or BNI on the Internet?

Well, there are lots of opportunities to network online. There are forum groups, message boards and lots of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. There are also millions of blogs to comment on. But, as I said in a previous post… “Don’t try to be all things to all people”. It’s ineffective. It’s best to concentrate on your niche target market. You need to be seen where your target customers are.

Let’s say that you’re a massage therapist and you have a brick and mortar store. You may decide to attract new business by offering free chair massages. Where would you do that? Would you offer them at a health fair or would you go to the local 4H Club fair? If you know who your target customers are, you should know where they’ll be and that’s where you need to be.

This same logic applies to social networking. Find out the demographics of the social networking sites that you’re considering joining and establish a presence there. Same thing goes for commenting on message boards and blogs. You’ll want to find blogs and forums where the other participants are interested in what you’re selling. Now let’s be perfectly clear on one thing. I am not advocating blatantly promoting and selling your product on these blogs and boards. That’s the easiest way to look like a “spammer”. I’m talking about building awareness of your business and reinforcing your brand.

So… how do you build an online relationship? You build it basically the same way as you do in person. Here are 3 simple tips for networking online:

#1 – Build Your Brand:

You’re going to need a “user name” and an “avatar”. (And no – I’m not talking about the movie here.) An avatar is an image that you use to identify yourself. Some people choose to use an image of themselves and some people prefer to use a graphic such as a business logo. Whatever you choose, stick with it. Think of it as part of your brand. You want people to recognize your avatar (and user name) the same way they would recognize your face if this were traditional face-to-face networking. Personally, I recommend using Gravatar to manage your“avatar”.

#2 – Be Where Your Customers Are:

First off, you need to protect your brand. So, I recommend creating profiles and reserving your user name on as many places as you can. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace may immediately come to mind but don’t forget sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Mixx and others. I believe in having an active presence on a few sites to start. You can’t possibly do a good job building relationships on all of these sites at once but you also don’t want someone else (possibly a competitor) reserving your user name before you do.

#3 – Make it Personal:

Sometimes, it’s difficult to let your human side be known online. (Although, sometimes, people let too much of their human side be seen.) As I’ve said before, people like to do business with people that they like and trust. If you’re knowledgeable about something, maybe you can answer questions online or share your experiences or maybe you’re the fun creative type who makes us laugh. Don’t be afraid to show your unique personality but whatever you do, keep in mind that everything you do is either a relationship builder or a relationship destroyer. That’s true for networking both face-to-face and online.

What are your thoughts? Have you driven website traffic or increased your sales through social networking? I’d love to hear from you.

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Author: Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

15 thoughts on “Is Social Networking Really that Different from Face-to-Face?”

  1. Hi Jet,
    Building trust is so important to networking both online and offline. It can be more challenging online I think because we miss all those subtle signs like smiles and eye contact. I strongly believe having a profile pic helps build a connection with your audience. That’s why I always recommend setting up an avatar at Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted..What Impact does Social Media Have on Businesses?My Profile

  2. Hi Sherryl,

    Great points there. I found social networking to be a powerful tool in attracting more audience in your market. I have an average of around 500 visitors going to my website every month from my facebook,twitter, and google + accounts. I think there’s no really secret here but just to build trust with your audience and yeah, try not to look like a “spammer” 🙂

  3. Cool tips. Doing keyword research first before jumping a decision to make domain is one of the most important part of creating a business site.

  4. Gail, I’ve been trying to be out and about but for every item I cross off my to-do list, I seem to add 3 or 4! (I’m sure you can relate to that.) Thanks for the invite. Instead of adding send “Gail an email to my to-do list, I just sent it. ?

    Side note for everyone else…. This is a great example of how commenting on blogs can often lead to opportunities to build collaborative relationships.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Tips for Building Awareness &amp Getting Your Website on TrackMy Profile

  5. Hi Sherryl,

    Where have you been hiding? I saw your comment on Kikolani and followed it here. I would love to invite you to our private blog collaboration where you will already know many of our members. If you’ll drop me an email I’ll send you the details and an invitation.

    We are just putting together some serious blog collaborations you might be interested in.
    Gail @ CommentLuv recently posted..How CommentLuv Grows Businesses and BlogsMy Profile

    1. That’s funny Paul. I’m so used to being called Sherry, Sheryl, Cheryl…. I didn’t even blink an eye when you called me Susan. BTW – I like your post “I Write Like – A Guy Who Killed Himself”.

  6. With how difficult it is to stand out online, networking has become a must. The people who do it best are the ones who don’t LOOK like they are networking. It’s a good idea to consider your networking efforts to be first and foremost an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. When you put the relationships ahead of the business, the progression to working relationships is much more natural and less forced. Instead of making pitches or selling yourself, you tend to have more people ASKING about what you do. Then you’ve really made a contact. Very good starting points for those about to enter into social networking Susan.
    Paul Novak recently posted..I Write Like – A Guy Who Killed HimselfMy Profile

  7. To answer your question, I’ve actually gotten business via my blog and LinkedIn. Because I’m a writer, my blog is my portfolio of my work, so I think I have an automatic advantage. So, yes to the power of social networking to drive brand awareness and business.

  8. i agree specially on point 3
    it’s important to make it personal in order to have success

  9. I really like the post. My favorite part is in the third way to build a relationship where you say “everything you do is either a relationship builder or a relationship destroyer”. I find this is very true when you get personal on your business website. While networking or building a brand it is important to appeal to the largest potential customer base if you start getting real personal with views or opinions such as within a blog post advocating for one religion or political preference it is likely that people with drastically differing views on the subject will be much less likely to buy, subscribe, or follow. Anyway great post on branding, networking, and online business.

    1. Kris, I couldn’t agree with you more about keeping personal views and opinions separate from your business. It’s so important to keep it professional while at the same time appearing human.

      I just read your post on Twitter and your comment about some people tweeting updates rather than content. That’s a good way at looking at it. I really don’t care what someone had for breakfast but at the same time, I’m willing to learn more about topics that interest me. Thanks for taking the time to post.

  10. Great tips Sherryl! Building brand also includes creating suitable nice twitter background, facebook landing page as well as creating fan page or discussion groups. Also, it is useful to give personal touch to people so that they know they are not talking to the wall, but to a real person with flesh and bones, just like them.

    You have a great writing skill. Keep it up!

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