Recently I listened to a presentation on how to network to increase referrals of potential customers. The speaker made her living by teaching people how to do this, so there is no doubt she knew her subject. Personally, I agree that face-to-face networking skills are critical if you are going to be in business, especially if you have direct customer contact.
However, she quoted statistics from a 2002 study done by the Chamber of Commerce on referral effectiveness based on the method of contact. 2002. That is where she lost me.
How far back is 2002? In 2002, the Department of Justice announced it was going to investigate Enron, the UN Security Council froze the assets of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, The US Secretary of Energy declared Yucca Mountain, Nevada to be a suitable nuclear waste depository, the Space Shuttle Columbia completed a mission to update the Hubble Space Telescope…it’s last before it would be destroyed on re-entry from it’s next mission in 2003, the United States led coalition invaded Afghanistan, A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture, United Airlines and WorldCom filed for bankruptcy, Congress approved a resolution to go to war with Iraq, and President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security.
To some, it may seem like 2002 was yesterday, but when discussing a topic on how business referrals are made in 2010, quoting data from a single, eight year-old study makes me question the relevancy of any of the information provided. Note that the Internet was only eleven years old in 2002. The first Social Media site, Friendster was started in 2002. It wasn’t until 2003, that the more known sites of LinkedIn (May) and MySpace (August) were introduced. Facebook didn’t come on-line until February 2004, YouTube began a year later, and Twitter didn’t start until July 15, 2006.
The world of communication and business have changed dramatically in the past 36 months, let alone the changes over the past eight years. To discuss ’networking’ from a perspective of the world in 2002 is to be in Denial* of the world of 2010. While ‘more experienced’ business people scoff at “these young people” and their Social Media, the reality is that referrals are being replaced by customer recommendations read off of blogs and other Internet sources. ‘Experienced’ business people can be angry, condescending, and ignorant all they want about the impact of Social Media on business…but it won’t change what has happened. Many people blame government regulation for business failures, but more businesses fail because of outdated business minds and practices than anything other cause and we are neck-deep in 2002 business thinking.
Face-to-face networking is important, but compare the number of face-to-face interactions/connections that a person can make in a day with the number of interactions/connections that can be made through blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in an hour, and it becomes apparent that dismissing the power of Social Media makes a business person appear uninformed and outdated…sort of like a man who wears shorts, sandals…and black socks. That analogy may not make sense to some people, but then again, those people probably aren’t reading this blog…or any others.
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