Monday, September 21, 2009

The Jump from Online Connection to Meaningful Relationship

During one pre-teen summer my parents insisted I maintain a group of pen pals. While it was a good exercise to develop writing skills, my interest in these far-off connections fizzled quickly. There just wasn’t any personal bond.

Even when there is emotion involved, relationships defined by a geographic separation typically meet the same fate. Consider all of those long-distance romances that eventually run tepid.

Does this need for in-person interaction also apply to contacts established in social networks?

You betcha! In fact, it is an absolute must if your goal is to derive professional value from the relationships initiated in online communities. There is only so much trust and transparency that can be forged through tweets, Facebook updates or LinkedIn messages.

This past April I wrote a blog post entitled “Three Phases of Social Media Maturation” based on Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) experiences implementing social media marketing programs for clients like Microsoft, BearingPoint, Monster, British Telecom (BT), TANDBERG, GovDelivery, among others. It’s during phase three – what I referred to as “The Last Mile” – which more intimate interaction with social media needs to occur.

Here are a few tactics we are employing to make that happen:

1. Corporate sponsored meet-ups: they are an effective way to bring together a myriad of contacts who share similar professional backgrounds and experiences to talk business. We organize and host, thereby positioning Strategic’s client as the community bind.

Better yet, time a meet-up in conjunction with an industry conference or event.

2. Thought leadership Webinars or teleconferences: organized to discuss a particular topic and often featuring one or more speakers, this is an effective way to establish credentials while creating a more meaningful bond.

For instance, a recent Webinar produced by Strategic in partnership with the Software Information and Industry Association (SIIA) has led to a number of exciting business discussions.

3. Good, old-fashioned sales calls: that’s right…there is nothing more powerful than the human voice and its ability to convey meaning and insight. Pick up the phone and call those social network connections. The result will be an important step towards fostering an actual relationship.

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