How I Used Social Media to Build an Offline Network - Social Media Explorer
How I Used Social Media to Build an Offline Network
How I Used Social Media to Build an Offline Network

image by:MarvinKuo

In the summer of 2004, on the hottest day of the year, I loaded up a moving truck, and moved to a city where I had no contacts, no network, and no friends. The only thing I had was a blog and a few early social media tools.

My goal was to hit the ground running with the anticipation of a few bumpy weeks, but with a solid plan it wouldn’t be long before a new network would be built.

The way I achieved this was by listening and reaching out. I set lofty goals to meet new people as well as a plan to maintain these new relationships. At times those goals were met, and other times I fell way short.

Have a Plan
In anything, as well as social media, you’re only as good as your plan. My plan was to use the tools I had to generate an offline meeting. I wanted to add value, participate in conversations and if possible connect in face-to-face meetings. The purpose of meeting face-to-face wasn’t to get something in return, but to listen to the stories of others, their thoughts and ideas, and last but not least, allow them to put a face with a user name. Not to mention, face-to-face meetings produce a connection that online tools can’t produce.

Use the Tools
We are definitely not short on social media tools. The best thing is to find out where your niche group is conversing online and use those tools to connect. Don’t be afraid to try anything. If someone recommends a new tool, try it. If it generates productive conversations, stick with it. If it doesn’t, move on.

If you are new to the social media space, sign up for a Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn account. Join groups within the social media sites that offer them. Turn your passion into a gallery. Register a domain name and setup a blog where you can produce conversation pieces.

Experiment with video and put it on sites such as YouTube and Viddler. At the very least put yourself in a position to be seen and also in a place where you can listen.

Be Consistent
The secret behind networking and social media isn’t necessarily the volume, but the consistency. Connecting one person at time, providing something of value to that person and gaining their trust. Set a goal on how much time you’ll spend using social media tools and be consistent at that.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Rejected
I’m like anyone else, I hate to be rejected. Unfortunately I have a collection of rejection stories as well. The more you engage ideas and relationships, rejection is certain to happen. However, if you continue to follow a simple social media protocol (listen, give, and then receive), you’ll discover that you’ll build a network of healthy relationships.

The key to success in social media is your ability to listen. It’s not the time to pitch your stuff, but to listen to others and see where you can add value. I’ve always embraced the idea that those that are willing to listen at some point will be invited to speak.

This is a great lesson to learn. If not, you’ll be labeled as a social spammer and not someone that’s truly open to being a part of the conversation.

Add Value
One of the hardest concepts to accept is the reward that comes by giving away something of value to someone else first. It may be introducing people within your network, or sending a tip or idea their way. Whatever method you choose, by giving something of value you’ll have a greater chance of building a network, not just a collection of “friends” and “followers.”

That’s my story, what’s yours?

How are you using social media to build an offline network? What tips would you offer? Leave a comment. I would love to hear your experiences.

About the Author

David Finch
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  • hahaha – while this is obviously beyond silly it is somehow incredibly funny when viewed as a serious comment. How on earth anyone expects to win anything from spam like this is hard to understand.

  • Thanks David and Jason for this post.

    I am exactly thinking about that kind of issue.
    I created a very strong offline network in Shanghai, China (through a networking group that I co-founded, For personal reason, I would like to be able to extract myself from Shanghai, and set up in Toronto, Canada.

    The interesting part is that I first started from building a network offline and went online through Facebook and Twitter to follow up with my network.
    I may have to try the other way round now. Building a network online among a new community (what I am working on for a while) and go offline as soon as I will have landed.

    We will see how that will work out for me !
    Thanks again for sharing your own experience.

  • I have used facebook but as Craig noted facebook is more personal. At one point i was more frustrated because i could not reach out to people beyond those i had known before. And that when i dea of coming up with a new social network struck me. We joined hands with a friend and came up with a social network site Since then i have met so many wonderful people through and in most cases offline.

    The future belongs to social media and with a better plan and strategy the benefits of social networking are priceless.

  • How do you share something valuable when your something is a product and not a service? How have others gotten this to work?

  • When I first began to use social media I didn't have a plan like you suggest above. I ended up spending hours on social media sites accumulating “friends” without know how to network effectively. I listened to so many stories that seemed unrelated to achieving my blog promotion goal that I came near to having a social media meltdown. Listening is important and passing tips to your contacts is too but what's most important of all is being organized. Now I do have a plan and a timetable as well.

  • David

    I had a mentor that would say “Have a plan and work your plan.” How about the elementary school teacher who says, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Right on, listening is significant part communication but often neglected. How do you sharpen your listening skills? Both online and off… for some folks this is a pretty difficult thing. Gaining trust, adding value and so on. There's no quick fixes for these areas- a project that begins one person at a time. Useful points, thanks for sharing. :)


  • A fantastic relation to online and offline networking. Great tips for building your base and making your voice heard.

  • Nice work, David. I'm going to recommend this post to people who ask me how to get started understanding the power of social media. I am in the process of telling my own story here: Hope you enjoy!

  • David,

    I definitely try to utilize social media to help relationships make the transition from an online connection to an offline network. When I start feeling genuinely connected to others or feel like I can contribute value to the projects they are working on I will definitely reach out via the phone. It's no surprise that the people I have amplified the connection with the people I speak with on the phone and there's a lot of cool projects and opportunities as a result.

    There's a lot of movers and shakers in the social media space, that's for sure.

    Like you I am about to make a treck across country where I will know virtually nobody, and I definitely plan to start reaching out to my new location via Twitter and other social media tools.

    Welcome to Jason's Social Media Explorer, and looking forward to more of your posts!

    Bets wishes.

  • Twitter has probably had the best value for me in terms of connecting with strangers. Facebook is much more personal, but Twitter has allowed me to connect and share with so many others, and from it have helped me gain a lot of information for me to learn more, and just have fun sometimes.

    I am struggling to connect offline though. The obvious is of course not everyone lives where I do, but also that in some ways I keep things separate. I have friends, activities, hobbies that I take part in that take up my time and I enjoy doing. Because of this I have shied away from going out of my way to try to connect more with these online acquaintances or to connect with new people in my niche. I know sometimes you need to just do it, I'll try to take your advice and just go for it.

    Nice to see you here David, look forward to future posts.

  • Pretty similar to yourself Jason, I upped and left London after 12-13 years down there. Moved north in pursuit of a life that allowed me to pursue my interested outside of work such as climbing and fell running and live in an area that didn't involve watching people climb over your fence into your garden every night. Equally, to have children and let them grow up outside of an urban environment.

    At the same time, I've moved (well over three years ago now) from an IT career to a specific Web career. Social media has helped me build a new network of contacts quickly and also provided a perfect listening channel, to as you say, just listen.

    As I mentioned in a blog post the other day, social media is not a platform that can just have money thrown at it, it needs to be treated softly and nurtured into a relationship that can eventually bring great returns. Its a friendship effectively, and friends don't like to feel like they are being used.

    Good post, simple subject matter but often over sold as this amazing new advertising platform, which it just isn't.

    • Thanks for the response. This was actually written by David Finch, our new social media manager at Doe-Anderson. But I'm sure he'll appreciate the comments as well. Now I'm off to find a style sheet fix or something to add head shots since there's three of us blogging here now. Heh. Thanks.

      • Apologise to David, I have just noticed the author name at the top. Good luck in your stylesheet search . . .


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