19
Mar
10

Will social media make face-to-face meetings a thing of the past?

Leading Vivid’s social media team is a fun job – it means hours of strategising, brainstorming, and interaction. Social media is one of the few tools a brand can use to see an immediate response; a response that is usually a colossal return on investment.

A large part of this interaction involves answering user questions on LinkedIn (the proto-crowdsourcing engine, if you ask me). Helping someone out by answering a question is the most basic way to form the beginnings of a positive relationship.

My favourite question of today:

Will Social Media make Face-to-Face Meetings Redundant?

I’ll admit, I had to take a few moments to consider my response to this. Without much in the way of qualifying information, it’s a difficult one to answer. There are three arenas to consider: the interpersonal, the brand, and the business to business.

All three share a common basis: social media is a complementary strategy to face-to-face meetings. It won’t eradicate the need for them – and I’d argue that it shouldn’t.

Digital and offline conversations aren’t dissimilar. Both rely on a common interest, personal interaction, and compatibility, to succeed. They require a level of trust – something that most people will find easier to give to someone they can look in the eye, rather than through a computer monitor.

That’s not to say that you can’t be genuine and influence people through social media. In a personal sense, I keep up with a lot of my friends through Twitter, Facebook and the like. In many ways, I know a lot more about what’s going on in their lives than some of the people I interact with in real life everyday. Why? Because we’re all using personal accounts to talk to each other, we all know each other in real life, and a level of trust already exists. That doesn’t mean that I won’t lose touch with them if I don’t make an effort to see them once in a while, it means that the gaps between meetings are a constant conversation, deepening the relationship.

Brands can be genuine and build trust through social media too – even if they are using a corporate account to do so. The key here is that the customers’ interaction with the brand on the web has to echo their real life experiences, and vice versa. A stand-offish or arrogant shopkeeper might be ‘supercool’ in the online world, but if they’re not personable when you visit the shop, you won’t continue that interaction.

In a business to business sense, the ‘silver bullet’ is somewhere in between these two approaches. Your social media presence has to echo your client’s experience. You can use social media to find people that you could help – but the relationship will advance exponentially through a face-to-face meeting. You should use social media to bridge the gaps between these meetings, ensuring that there is a constant conversation and exchange of ideas. This lays the groundwork for the next meeting.

Use social media to keep a conversation – and a contact – active. Deepen a relationship by sharing ideas; forge the kind of symbiosis that you need to make a project truly successful.

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