Recently, I enjoyed a face to face interview (OMG-F2F?*) with a person referred to me by a LinkedIn contact: A late-20s event producer with impressive experience, a great network and the desire to expand her freelance business. Coffee, fresh air and the chance to experience a person’s personality and ability to communicate one-on-one was very refreshing.
You see, it’s my “baby boomer” traits that drive my need to see and interact in person. I’ve never hired talent or support staff without meeting or at least picking up the phone to get a sense of how someone will project our company’s image. After the normal pleasantries, the subject turned to the media by which we connected.
“I’ve never gotten any business off LinkedIn,” said my coffee mate, implying that I may be the one to break that streak. Instead, her comment got me wondering about the usefulness of LinkedIn. In all my years on it, I had not even had a conversation with anyone with a need that my company could address. I felt so used! I started to wonder, “Am I just another pretty profile?”
“Do you Twitter?” she asked. “I really don’t think that most people would care to know who I am calling on or what events I am engaged in,” I replied. I mean, really, I’m not a celebrity, and my business, or even my personal “tweets” seem unappealing … even to me.
“FaceBook?” was her next question. Then, it all became very clear to me. Everything had become blurred. Was there a better way to virtually network than just POST or update?
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Where is it best for hospitality/meeting industry professionals to conduct social networking?
Or is social networking in this industry an oxymoron? I mean really, the hospitality industry is a HUGE social network, isn’t it? Let’s look at how our industry does business: cocktail parties, luncheons, golf outings, FAM and site trips and live events.
I’ve spoken for years to planners and hoteliers extolling the virtues of the relationship aspect of doing business. Social networking sites should support that. But, when I see status updates on LinkedIn about having dinner with relatives, looking for new movies for the summer, and seeing posts asking “What’s your favorite song,” I understand why I’m not getting the business value of participation. Seldom few of my contacts seem focused on it while on-line.
IMHO** — much like eBay, we need to better police ourselves and be more responsive and responsible while “tweeting, posting and updating” while in a business social networking environment. For example, frequently someone will have a specific need and will ask for referrals, posting something like, “I’m looking for a one legged harmonica player.” At which time I’ll reply privately, “I’m a one legged harmonica player … how can I help?” I have never, EVER gotten a reply.
OK, I’m not a one-legged harmonica player, but you get the point. We need to be more confident in the fact that we don’t have to hide behind our keyboard. It is OK to ask for a phone number, or offer one privately. We can initiate a call and chat one-on-one and it will lead to expanded business, more job opportunities and a better understanding of how to best utilize these vast networks we build. This writer believes that if we can’t begin to measure the business value of the time we invest on a site like LinkedIn, it will soon become passé, and we’ll all move on to something else.
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Face-to-face meetings still have a place
As I opened this article, I referenced a face-to-face meeting that was productive and satisfying. LinkedIn played its part as the conduit following the personal introduction. The F2F meeting is not dead. For when you say it is, so is our industry. Let’s focus on thriving and growing our business relationships while using these tools for what they’ve been set up to do … foster business connections and business growth.
As of this writing I have 448 contacts and 3,677,400 in my network. Will you be my next coffee mate? 😉
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*Oh my god. Face to face?
**In my humble opinion
Kevin R. Johnston, CMP, is a hospitality industry veteran and the CEO of the Advantage Event Group in Atlanta, Ga. His work with clients focuses on increasing meeting profitability and productivity. Kevin can be contacted at kjohnston@AdvantageEventGroup.com.