Will Social Media Replace Face-to-Face Networking?

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I love social media.  I am active on social media. I have found that social media is fantastic for ‘brand building’ – and Ialso believe that social media will not replace all marketing efforts for most entrepreneurs and sales people.   In fact, for many businesses, it just does not generate a large percentage of their new business.  

I know, I know, there are people out there right now that are officially apoplectic.  Take a deep breath.  Know that I love you and Ilove social media.  It has been a fantastic tool for me to retain my audience and keep them engaged.  It has been great as a brand builder.  I’ve also seen the marketing data and it is sobering.

Here’s a great example.  In 2011, the Freelance Industry Report did a very thorough survey of the industry.  One of the many questions they asked was “What has been your most effective method for finding and landing clients…?”  Four of the top five answers were all networking related (Word of mouth, Referrals, Personal/Professional network, Local networking).  These added up to 69.5% of all business development for the respondents.  Social media ranked as #8 with only 2.8%.   But wait, that’s not the most amazing thing.  When asked, “which… marketing methods are you planning on spending more time and resources on in the next 12 months,” Social media ranked #1 with 46.1%!

But wait, that’s still not the most amazing thing about this story.  You see, when the 2012 report came out, the networking related choices for how respondents actually generated their business that year, now moved up to 74.3%!  But where was social media you ask?  Well with all their commitment to focus more time and resources on social media, the report found that the respondents had moved the needle to 2.8%... oh wait, it was 2.8% in the previous year!  So here’s the most amazing part of the story: despite their commitment to put more time and resources on social media to generate their new business the following year, the respondents actually did not move the needle at all.  Zero.  Zip. Nada. 

And now the really crazy thing – in 2012, 42.8% of the respondents said that next year they were going to focus more on – you got it, social media again!  There’s a saying for this: What’s the definition of insanity? Doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

In two separate reports, these business professionals were generating 70% or more of their business from networking related activities.  They generated less than 3% from social media.  Don’t you think that it would be a good idea to increase their networking efforts as well?  I do.  That’s one of the reasons I keep writing books on the topic.  The data speaks for itself.  Networking is a great way to build your business.  It is not the only way, but it is still among the very best.  Why not spend more time honing that skill?  I’m just saying.

Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.  He is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization.  His new book, Avoiding the Networking Disconnectcan be viewed at Amazon.com