Are your online networking efforts helping you build business relationships? Are your online connections leading to actual results? Today, most companies are trying to build a solid online presence. But going online doesn’t mean that you should abandon your offline business development and networking channels. Every small business needs to leverage its online influence to achieve offline business results.

During our recent SEMrush Chat, we discussed how to turn your online connections into offline business relationships. We were very excited to welcome Brian Fanzo, a keynote speaker, a podcast host, a social video expert and a digital marketing strategist.

Check out the following chat recap to see how Brian and our other chat participants have turned their online connections into real-world business relationships.

Q1. What are your best tips for getting a coffee meeting with someone who you've only connected with on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?

You can connect with someone in the digital world, whether it’s via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. But sooner or later you’ll want to convert your social media connections into worthwhile business relationships.

Our special guest and other chat participants shared their tips for convincing someone you’ve connected with on social media networks to meet you for a cup of coffee.

  • Show people that you care

First of all, you must be proactive and get to know as much as possible about the person you want to connect with. Make sure to read your new contact’s profile and read his to her recent posts. Knowing this information is important for breaking the ice and sparking conversation during an in-person meeting. Our guest expert recommended showing that you care and making sure that you don’t waste other people’s time. “If you want to stand out from the noise and make sure your ask is seen, be yourself and be unique. I use Twitter @video often!” said Brian Fanzo.

  • Find a common topic of interest

If you want to meet people in person, you need to create opportunities to connect offline. Try to find something that you both have in common – a common interest, for example – and reach out to the person.

Maureen Jann suggested that a common topic or goal can help you build a bridge between you and a person you want to connect with.

  • Don’t try to sell people something

If you annoy and stalk people, you’ll never succeed. Don’t make people think that you’re going to hassle them if you meet. Otherwise, they’ll never want to meet with you at best. They can even block you on social media. So don’t try to sell people something.

“Give them an incentive that benefits them more than yourself. Something that makes the travel and time worth it,” advised Annaliese Henwood @MktgInnovator.

  • Offer value and give them something

Jerry Frear said that he uses Gary Vaynerchuk's method, which is to offer value and give them something. Many people think about the opposite: “How can this relationship can benefit me?” This approach won’t deliver great results. “Find a way to bring them value – that way you’ll both benefit,” tweeted Rachel Howe @R8chel_Marie. Offer value and expertise.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask to meet. You’ll be surprised how many people have the same goal and want to meet with you.

But make sure that you’ve already spent enough time chatting with a person online. “First, you need to have spent some time with them online. Don't suggest meeting up after just one or two surface interactions,” said PolePositionMkg ‏@PolePositionMkg.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q1

Building relationships online isn’t always that simple. But if done correctly, forging strong, solid social media connections can help you develop and maintain solid real-world relationships.

Q2. Why is it important to further your relationships offline?

Today we spend a huge amount of time online. It’s easy to meet with new social “friends” who share similar interests with us. But does this mean that online relationships have entirely overshadowed the importance of real-life connections?

In fact, business owners still invest much of their time and effort into building and maintain long-term offline relationships. We asked our chat guests to explain why it’s important to strengthen your online connections offline.

  • Body language

Brian Fanzo pointed out that nothing can replace the power of body language and offline interactions. Body language and facial expressions indicate tone, and they can tell you more about a person. However, social media relationships can be a good start – if done correctly social media will change your first greeting from a handshake to a hug.

  • Deeper relationships

You can really get to know a person during a face-to-face meeting. In fact, people can be different in real life. Sometimes emails and posts aren’t enough to fully understand someone’s points.

  • More credibility and trust

It’s much easier to hide behind a computer screen. Andy Drinkwater made a fair point that few people want to do business with a faceless individual. Offline meetings help you better establish credibility with people.

Annaliese Henwood also mentioned that people tend to trust you more when they can get to know you in person.

  • The humanizing aspect

Another important point is that an offline meeting makes your interaction with someone seem more human.

To take advantage of all available opportunities to benefit your business, you must make an effort to connect with your social media network in real life.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q2

You might be surprised to discover how much trust a simple handshake can communicate. In the era of the digital revolution, real-life connections are vital to your professional and personal success.

Q3. Does the Internet strengthen or weaken real-life connections? Why or why not?

The Internet has changed our lives, the way we communicate with each other, search for information and do business. But does the Web strengthen or weaken real-life connections?

Let’s see how our chat participants answered.

One of the greatest things about online communication is that it allows people to connect with each other regardless of the distance between them.

Traditional networking, like conferences and happy hours haven’t gone away. In fact,the good news is that, today, businesses have many opportunities to connect with their clients, partners, and industry influencers. You can use both offline and online strategies to expand the depth and breadth of your relationships with other people. ‏“I don't think it strengthens or weakens, rather, it provides more opportunities,” tweeted Rachel Howe.

Some of our guests believe that the Internet strengthens real-life relationships, because it allows people to get to know each other in a more inviting, pressure-free environment, which improves overall communication. “Strengthen; you get to find others that have the same connections. It helps break some walls,” explained Shinebrightsocial @shinebrightok.

The Traffic Jam Media team also thinks that the Web strengthens real-life relationships, because it makes it easier to stay in touch and frequently engage with your connections. However, it shouldn’t replace face-to-face meetings.

The team also mentioned that the Web makes it easier to reach out to people and form initial relationships.

Some of our chat participants offered their opinion that the Internet can either strengthen or weaken your relationships, based on how you conduct yourself with online and offline mediums.

Many of our chat guests agreed that although the Internet provides new opportunities to build relationships and makes more relationships possible, only your offline efforts determine the depth and quality of your relationships with people.

Let’s sum up these key points:

SEMrush Chat Recap Q3

It’s really great that you can meet with practically anyone today, if you invest time and effort. Nevertheless, offline relationships will never go away. No matter how strong your online presence is, it’s still important to connect with people in the real world.

Q4. Do you think there are any instances where you would not need to futher your online relationship offline?

As we’ve figured out, if used correctly, the digital space can help you build solid offline connections. But in some cases you actually don’t have to bring your online relationship offline.

Let’s figure out those cases.

  • When you have online relationships with short-term value

Brian Fanzo believes that some relationships that have short-term value don’t require offline engagement. In this case, there’s no need to spend time meeting someone in person. ‏”We can do business with people worldwide, but can't always hop on a plane for a coffee,” said Andy Drinkwater.

  • When you collaborate on content

If you’re collaborating with someone on blog posts or other content, an online relationship is enough. But, as PolePositionMkg believes, in other cases you need to take your connection to an offline level.

  • When a business transaction can take place online

The digital revolution has enabled many business transactions to take place online. What’s more, today's global business owners sometimes don’t have an opportunity to meet face-to-face. Miles Technologies ‏pointed out that online relationships bridge long distances: “For a long-distance professional relationship, you can conduct it entirely online.”

“Distance really can be too much of a factor sometimes,” tweeted Reva Minkoff @revaminkoff.

  • When a relationship on social media is enough

Sometimes the professional relationships that people cultivate on social media platforms are enough. More importantly, Annaliese Henwood believes that your decision to take your online relationship offline should depend on the value or importance of this relationship. “Is it worth the cost of travel and the required time consumption?” Annaliese asked.

Some of our chat participants think that there’s almost always an opportunity to turn your digital relationships into real-life connections. “Unless you live on a different continent and neither of you ever travels, I can't imagine why you wouldn't bring it offline,” tweeted ThinkSEM @ThinkSEM.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q4

So what’s your opinion on the topic? Can you give an example of when you would not have to bring your online relationship offline? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Q5. Which online tools have you used to strengthen your offline relationships?

At the end of our discussion, our chat guests mentioned several online tools they use to promote their offline relationships.

  • Social media itself. Many of our chat participants mentioned social media networks, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other platforms, as places to research individuals before meeting with them.

  • Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts. These communication services bring your conversation to life with voice, photos and even video calls. If all goes well during your first phone call, the next step will be a face-to-face meeting.

  • Email. Some people also use email to leverage every opportunity to make face-to-face connections happen.

  • Podcasts. If done right, podcasting can be a powerful way to share your thoughts, expertise, and creativity. It can help you reach out to your potential customers and gain a very focused audience. Also, our special guest shared that podcasting helped him make connections.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q5

What online tools do you use to strengthen your offline relationships? Let us know in the comments!

Today we all realize the important role that the digital world plays in our personal and professional lives. However, the secret behind networking isn’t the quantity, but the quality and consistency of your relationships with your clients, business partners, and influencers.

Developing real-life connections is vital to success. Hopefully, the tips from this post will help you bring your online network to life.

Thanks to our special guest and our other chat participants for sharing their expertise! Make sure to discover more techniques to connect with people on iSocialFanz!

Author Photo
Liza PerstnevaLiza Perstneva is a Social Media Manager at SEMrush and a #SEMrushchat host. Follow Liza on Twitter.
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