Facebook Vs In-Person Networking – Which Has a Higher ROI?

People often compare time spent on Facebook to the time spent on marketing when it comes to business development. Yet, the most appropriate comparison for return on investment is in-person networking.

For example, to attend a live networking event, I would generally have an hour commute each way, plus I would spend 2 hours at the event for a total of 4 hours. During that time, I might meet about 4-6 new people, and possibly want to follow up with 1 or 2 of them. I probably would’ve paid for the event as well as for parking and/or public transportation. So, 4 hours, out-of-pocket costs for potentially a handful of contacts.

In comparison, I check in with Facebook about 2-3 times per day and average about 5-10 minutes each time. Each time I’m on, I interact with approximately 1-3 people. Over the course of a single week, I might spend around 4 hours total on Facebook and interact with as many as 40 people. The bonus is that I can do this at my convenience, and it doesn’t cost me a single penny. Four hours, no cost, and 10x the number of people with whom I can interact.

Which method of networking yields the most tangible results? It’s hard to tell since I blend my two worlds. But, I will say that I feel more comfortable asking someone I’ve been exchanging comments with on Facebook a direct business question rather than in person at a cocktail party. On Facebook, like email, they don’t have to answer right on the spot, so it’s a little less awkward. In addition, on Facebook I’m interacting with people with whom I already have a personal or business relationship.

I still attend in-person networking events – nothing is better than meeting online friends IRL (in real life) – but, due to family obligations and working from a home office in suburbia, it’s difficult to always be there in person. This is why I’m a strong believer in “clicks & mix” networking – click on line and mix it up in person. You need both. I use Facebook and Twitter to supplement the fact that I can’t physically manage to attend every conference, breakfast, lunch, cocktails and dinner to which I’m invited.

Here are a few other ways to think about managing your time on Facebook:

Facebook can be a productive coffee break. As mentioned above, I log onto Facebook about 2-3 times a day; mostly when I need a mental break and/or human interaction. During the time I’m on Facebook, I may comment on a few posts from my friends. Or pick my 5 favorite films, songs, or dogs. I also might take a quiz, add any new friend requests, become a fan of a page, and see if anyone from high school or college has recently joined. However, most of my time is spent scanning the News Feed, where I inevitably find one of my friends spotlighting an article or video relevant to my work, so I’m quickly off and back to research and writing.
Facebooking is easier than a cocktail party. Why? First, I don’t have to worry about what to wear or a dress code. But, more importantly, on Facebook, I’m interacting with friends who have already made a decision that they want to engage with me. This means that I can hop into conversations and share information without getting a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yes, even extroverts sometimes get nervous breaking into or starting conversations at networking events. It also means that Facebook friends will always be “warm calls” because you can build relationships talking about favorite movies, TV shows, sports teams or YouTube videos.
High school reunions can be fun and fruitful. It seems that the majority of people on Facebook are reconnecting with individuals from the past. Don’t let a few bad high school experiences deter you. You’d be surprised at how people can change for the better. After all, you certainly did, didn’t you?

I can hear some of you still saying, “That’s nice, but why would I waste time with non-business contacts when I need to find a job or new clients?” My response – I’ve rarely mentioned what I do to my high school pals, yet there they are, … signing up for the Downtown Women’s Club, buying my books; getting me speaking engagements; and hiring me as their social media coach. Not bad for dishing about reality shows and my dog’s Marley and Me moments.