5 Reasons Offline Networking is Essential for Entrepreneurs
Professional networking has always been an important mainstay of business conduct. It helps us meet the people who can get us jobs, it gives us sales opportunities when we’re trying to grow, and it gives us new partnerships when we need more manpower or broader capabilities to get a job done. In effect, that old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” follows us throughout our professional lives.
However, the onset of LinkedIn and other social networking platforms has radically altered the dynamics of professional networking. Millions of young entrepreneurs are relying on these platforms to find and engage with the other professionals to build their networks and create more opportunities. However, this has evolved to be an over-reliance, as many are abandoning old-fashioned face-to-face networking for their digital equivalents.
Offline networking is essential for entrepreneurs, especially young or new ones, and here’s why:
- Personal Interaction Is Easier Than Online Interaction. Millennials raised immersed in Internet culture may outright refuse to believe it, but in-person interactions are actually easier to initiate and manage than their online counterparts. Nonverbal communication, including body language and tonal inflections, can clue you in to a person’s intentions and feelings, and you won’t be able to find it in a digital realm. It may take some practice before you can effectively use nonverbal cues to transmit and read others’ thoughts, but once you’ve mastered it, effective communication becomes radically easier.
Additionally, introductions are easier to land in an offline world. Sending a cold email or tweeting a “hey!” can easily be ignored, but shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye isn’t likely to be met with a cold shoulder.
If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, you’re more likely to be ignored online since people will often check your profile before following up with you. If you don’t have a long list of credentials, you might not be on their radar. In person, these “profile checks” are nonexistent, and can’t possibly interfere with your efforts.
- Not Everyone Uses LinkedIn. This is a critical consideration for anyone trying to build the perfect network of connections through LinkedIn or some other online platform. Hundreds of millions of people have profiles on the platform, but that doesn’t account for everyone. In fact, some of the most valuable connections—experienced entrepreneurs, wealthy private investors, etc.—tend to be of an older generation, and are more likely to abstain from social media entirely. Exclusively using online networking as a means of building connections can divorce you from these lucrative opportunities.
- Local Connections Are Valuable. While there are nationwide trade shows and industry gatherings that bring people together from all over, the majority of your offline connections will be rooted in the same city as you attend local events. While some might argue that this limits your potential pool of connections (compared to online networking), forging strong local connections is imperative for budding entrepreneurs.
Local connections are more likely to work with you one-on-one than their distant, online counterparts. They can head over to your office to collaborate on a project, or meet you for coffee on relatively short notice. They can attend the same events as you and reinforce your reputation, and introduce you to others in the area who can help you on your journey. The bottom line is, offline networking opens a door to your local community, and there’s no way to replace that.
- People Remember Faces. The world is infested with social media, and even the most acclimated users have difficult remembering a tweet or someone who happened to jump into an online thread. They’re far more likely to remember a face—a face they saw in person, rather than one attached to a profile. That link to memory serves as a critical advantage to entrepreneurs trying to make a lasting impression to potential investors or customers, and it’s a hard link to create through online interactions alone.
- Balance Is Vital. Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that balanced, diversified strategies are the most effective. Alienating offline networking in favor of online networking is a way of putting all of your eggs in one basket. If you want to be successful in building a strong network of connections, you need to open yourself to as many opportunities as possible, and that means utilizing every strategy you can.
There’s nothing wrong with online networking. Online networking holds countless opportunities and millions of potential connections you could never meet in person. However, it cannot serve as a total substitute for in-person networking. Entrepreneurs must find balance in their networking strategies the same way they find balance in their business structure or marketing campaigns: by harnessing the best of each world.