Last week while at BlogHer, one of the attendees asked my thoughts on growing an offline network. My niche is social media and it’s a given that just about everyone in this space is online. The attendee’s niche is smaller and more focused. Many of the people she needs to reach out to aren’t online or don’t want to spend a lot of time online. It’s another reminder that I take online community building for granted because there are plenty of people who don’t feel like hanging out on Facebook and Twitter and prefer to do their networking face to face.
It’s interesting that some folks in the newer generation aren’t sure how to build their brand or community offline. When I was starting out in business, the only places to have for networking were offline. It’s my preference, to be honest. I enjoy meeting people and talking with them. I like hearing their passion and see the sparkle in their eyes as they talk about what they love to do.
If you spend all your time building relationships online, consider some of these ways to take it to a whole new level. You may find it to be more beneficial – and that you’re spending less time online.
1. Join Local Networking Events
When I first move to the area where I live now, I joined a local newcomer’s professional organization. To be honest, our monthly meetings didn’t include much business. We drank wine and talked about our kids, school and local sports. However, those relationships mattered because eight years later some still call me to consult with me on writing or social media.
You’ll find a variety of social and professional networking groups and events in your area. Some feature regular meetings while others are one off affairs. Some require you to buy a ticket and others are free, sponsored by a local business. Usually they’re held at libraries, hotel conference areas and high schools or colleges. To find professional networking events, look in the “events” section of local newspapers and magazines and community bulletin board. The Chamber of Commerce and business organizations also hold networking events. Check with their websites to see what is happening in your area. If there’s nothing happening around you, get together with some local business owners and start your own networking event. Maybe that will lead to a great, big, snowball reaction.
2. Meetups and Tweetups
Meetups and Tweetups are kind of different from professional networking events in that they’re not necessarily geared towards generating new business. However, they are a way to meet like-minded people and let them know more about you and what you do. These events are generally more casual than business events as well, but that’s not a bad thing. The purpose of meetups and tweetups is to meet the people who you know from Twitter, blogs and other online communities. Like professional networking events, the people who you meet offline may also follow you online as a result. If you belong to a particular community, there will be announcements for meetups, if not, start your own. Also, join local social networking organizations on Twitter and Facebook. If there are offline events, you’ll receive announcements. For example, I follow New Jersey Social Media on both Twitter and Facebook and if there are events in my area, I’ll receive an alert.
3. Teach a Class
My library offers free learning all the time. When I learned they would be offering classes teaching about the various social media tools for business and networking, I sent them a note asking if I could help. Students include representatives from local businesses who are considering making an investment in a social media campaign and people who just want to learn more about promoting their own stuff.
High schools and colleges also offer continuing education courses and seminars in the evenings. These courses are for people who want to gather more knowledge rather than matriculating students.
Teaching these classes is a good way to network with people who are interested in learning about your area of expertise. It will also establish you as a local authority, which can lead to more business for you. To inquire about classes and seminars, contact the places that hold these events to propose your idea.
4. Public Speaking
Speaking at conferences, business retreats, and other events is another terrific way to help establish authority and build a community both online and off. Start out small – speak at schools, businesses, and local business events. As you book more speaking engagements and gain confidence, you’ll land more prestigious contracts.
5. Attend Conferences
You don’t have to be a speaker to attend a conference. Rather, attend to learn and meet others. Conferences provide a bonanza of opportunities because everyone shares a common interest. The classes and sessions provide a place to learn about the topics that interest you the most, while the hallways and networking events enable you to talk in depth with interesting people. If the conference features a trade show floor, you’ll also learn about the products and services that will help to advance your career. If you attend a conference, you’ll likely come home with a stack of business cards, new Twitter follows and Facebook friends and even some new clients.
6. Write for Print Publications
As a freelance writer, I can tell you that it’s not easy to get published, especially in print. However, it’s easier to find your piece published in a small, local newspaper or county magazine than it is to land an assignment with The New York Times or Newsweek. Local publications are often interested in good content and by writing an informative article or Op-Ed piece, you’re helping them to achieve your goal, and getting your own name out there. If you provide a real educational experience, people will want to find you to learn more, so make sure your bio includes your web address, Twitter handle and other means to contact you.
There are plenty of benefits to building an offline network. Though they’re not online as much as your offline network, these are people who will buy your books, read your articles, and contact you for your consulting services. Just because someone doesn’t spend a lot of time online, doesn’t mean they don’t matter.
How do you build your offline network?