S ocial media has given us the opportunity to keep in contact with our friends and family 24/7, no matter where they are in the world.
Despite the fact that this has opened up so many doors, it has also lured us into a false sense of connection. We often end up connecting with people we don’t know – someone may have followed your profile on Instagram, for example, and you might have nonchalantly accepted this without ever striking up a conversation.
By following you, that person can see lots about your life – what you eat, where you are etc. Should they wish to dig a little deeper, they can even find out what you are thinking by looking at your Twitter posts or learn what’s going on in your business lives by looking at your LinkedIn.
The numbers game
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know them personally. At the end of the day, your follower numbers have increased, right? For many users, social media has become a numbers game – people focus on how many followers they have and make assumptions about a person based on this metric.
This goes against the simple concept we are taught at school: quality over quantity. One follower who can teach you something knowledgeable is better than one hundred who are trying to sell you something you don’t want or need.
Even LinkedIn, which was built for business networking, initially felt like a difficult platform to start a genuine conversation on. The salespeople and recruiters who use it are intent on drumming up business or finding their next candidates.
The platform has changed massively in the past couple of years though, now resembling more of a traditional social media platform. Videos have added a bit of colour and there is plenty of scope to strike up conversations around news stories and other topics of business interest.
Bridging the gap
But how many social media connections can you say you’ve actually met in person? Almost certainly not all of them, if you’re honest. There are some great opportunities out there for those who do want to take the conversation offline though. I welcomed the chance to attend one such event last year.
LinkedIn Local was designed by Australian businesswoman Anna McAfee. Though Anna was well-connected online, she was missing out on face-to-face interaction. She decided to post on her LinkedIn profile, encouraging anyone in her area to come and meet her for a coffee. This was her inspiration for setting up the series of events, which have now gone global and are hosted in hundreds of major cities.
This focus on taking relationships offline and getting to know the people behind the profiles is a valuable one. It allows you to genuinely connect with those users you might have seen on LinkedIn. It’s a friendly environment and an open chance to network without the feeling that you’re getting a sales pitch rammed down your throat.
Used in the right way, social media is a fantastic tool for building personal connections. There’s been a big push in recent years for people to be their authentic selves on social media, whether this is addressing topics of mental health or workplace problems.
Any social network has the potential to feel faceless however – it’s about finding the right balance and being more like Anna, who realised the value to be had from face-to-face interaction. Attending – or hosting – more events like hers can remind us that the best way to be authentic is to be yourself in person.
So, when you’re looking to make industry friends or searching for a new business opportunity, get out there and start meeting your online connections face-to-face!
Danny is an Account Manager in the Manchester office