Here's the funny thing about social media. It's all talk. It's a wonderful, amazing, effective way to get to know people...but it's all about the talk and not the action. It's a great starting point, but you really need to "seal the deal" with offline interaction as well. It's a point Mack Collier did a nice job of making over The Viral Garden this past weekend.

Mack was out in Scottsdale for the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer last week and came back with some thoughts on what it's like to make the effort to meet online contacts in person.

Mack writes...

I cannot stress this enough: go meet the people you are connecting with online. It doesn't have to be at a big conference. It can be a local tweetup, a Social Media Club meeting, or at your grocery store. It doesn't matter, just find a way to take your online connections and cement them into offline relationships. Looking back, I will probably say that 2008 was one of the most personally and professionally rewarding years of my life, simply because of all the amazing people that I have now come to know. And I am getting off track a bit because I wanted to sum up what a great event the Digital Marketing Mixer was. But these amazing people that I got to laugh with and learn from are what mean so much to me. This is what so truly excites me about social media. The tools themselves are pretty boring. But what these tools allow me to do...the people that they let me connect with that I otherwise would never know, that's invaluable.

And he is so right...but I have a slightly different twist to put on the need to meet people in person. I think there's true value in getting to know them online before that offline meeting every takes place.

Here's why; I met Mack for the first time this past spring at Blogger Social in NYC. He then spoke at both our spring and fall Small Business Marketing Unleashed conferences and we'll be meeting up for a fourth time next month in Kennewick, Washington for BrightWeb Marketing's Learn About Web conference. Mack, for me, is one of the perfect examples of social media meetings that head offline.

What was neat about meeting Mack is that his offline persona didn't match up with his online persona. I knew Mack from more than a year of emails, instant messenger conversations and Twitter conversations before we ever met in person. When we finally did meet, I was shocked at how reserved he was. (For those who don't know Mack, he's a self professed introvert, but very friendly and outgoing online.)

Here's where social media is handy though...

Had my first interaction with Mack been an in-person meeting at a networking event, I'm not sure we ever would have become friends. He's very quiet and reserved and I'm...well, not. We wouldn't have had much in common and even if we had, we never would have had the chance to find out. I likely would have ended up talking to someone else and not thought twice about it. But because I'd met Mack online and had a chance to get to know him, I asked him about it. He told me he was shy at first but warmed up as he got more comfortable with people.

Sure enough, that's exactly what happened.

Mack stresses the need to get out there and meet people in person to follow through on the relationships you've made online. The other side of that is the value that online networking brings to your offline networking. If you are a shy person, like Mack, social media can afford you the chance to break the ice before you even set foot on the pond.

October 27, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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