I am a networking junkie. I love being in a room with people I don’t know, hoping to start interesting conversations, build relationships and maybe even get business referrals. But I have noticed that I don’t spend  much time networking face-to-face anymore.

I am still meeting and talking to people and having conversations about business. I am just doing it online. I am not the only person experiencing this transition. It is just the state of business interactions in 2012. When I am challenged by others who don’t think you can’t build “real” relationships on line, I simply refer to one of my first jobs, as an inside sales associate.

In that job, I spent my days building relationships over the telephone. After a while, my regular clients became friends.  I knew what they did over the weekend, what sports teams they followed, and what they were buying their wife for their anniversary (Sometimes I even suggested the gift).

Friendship growing out of a series of phone conversations seemed like the most natural thing in the world. When we met face-to-face, we simply continued the conversations which began over the telephone.

Today, those conversations are taking place in a different format, but the rules are the same:

  • Focus on the other person – Make them feel special by retweeting and sharing their content.
  • Listen more then you talk – Pay attention to what others are sharing, it will tell you a lot about their interests.
  • Ask questions – Find out more. Open a discussion topic with a simple question and see where the conversation takes you.
  • Share information on a range of topics. – Don’t be one note. As a person, you have a range of interests. By sharing a little about all the things you are interested in, you are more likely to find others with common interests.
And it works!  Today my business circles include people I met intially online, and others I have still never met face-to-face.  And just like my days in phone sales, I know more about them than just their business. I know a bit about their politics, taste in food, and possibly what movie they saw last weekend.
In this strange new world of social media marketing and online relationships,  we move seamlessly from online to offline and back again. The relationships are real, just different. And if I ever get to Ireland, I am looking forward to meeting Olwen Dawe (@IrishBizIntel) face-to-face.