It’s not always easy to get along to every social media breakfast, tweetup, and conference. Social networks have given me the opportunity to connect with colleagues and like-minded friends around the world. Sure, I’d love to get along to more events so that I can meet more people face to face, join in the conversation and build relationships. But as a part time working mum with three little guys it’s almost impossible. There are school drop offs to be made. Homework to be done. Babysitters to be found. And there’s family time on the weekend that I cherish, even though a Saturday conference about innovation and the interwebs sounds mighty appealing.
So, why do I think it’s still important to develop those online friendships in a face to face environment? Debra Askanase summed it up nicely in a recent post “Front Yard and Back Yard Conversations”.
“…for every front yard, there is a back yard. And the back yard is where relationships are made.”…”social media builds relationships, and that relationships build brands and organizations. (Which is why we talk about how the number of followers doesn’t matter, but Dunbar’s number does.) A related post on this subject is Beth Kanter’s post on measuring impact, not influence and social influence reach versus affinity. Backyard conversations build relationships. After all, the best ideas do happen over a good meal and (sometimes) a few beers out on the back deck.”
Every now and then I manage to meet some business friends from Twitter over coffee in the city, at a work event, an evening tweet-up or at the rare conference. Those face to face meetings have been a great way to develop friendships which have even resulted in invitations to speak, business opportunities and national connections helping out to raise funds for microfinance and a school in Tanzania. Our initial introductions through social media meant connecting face to face was effortless, and this has led to friendships and opportunities to do good work together.
So when you are trying to balance work and family, how do you prioritise which face to face event is right for you?
- Choose the most valuable event for your purpose. There are many conferences and seminars that seem interesting and informative and personally, I love any opportunity to learn. But in selecting an event you need to consider a few other things. What is the relevance to your job and to the things you hope to achieve? Will you have an opportunity to connect with people you already know through Twitter or your blog? What is one thing you can take away from the event and apply to the things you are doing?
- Give yourself a break. There is ALWAYS something else to do. Email to read. Clothes to sort. Forms from school to fill in. Many working parents I know are so busy working and looking after their family that they don’t think about themselves. I bet you can make every excuse not to attend an event because there are so many things to be done. If there is something you are really keen to go to, book it in! Get help from your partner. Book that babysitter. Offload some ironing. You might even come back refreshed an energised by the conversations and ideas :)
- Value your online social network. You can develop friendships and achieve great things through social networks. Social media is an excellent way to learn about people, exchange ideas and make a difference. You can join in their conversations on Twitter, comment on their blog posts and even talk on Skype or participate in a virtual video event or webinar. Are you also making it easy for people to get to know you and the things you are interested in, through your own blog posts, slideshare presentations or photos? Of course it’s always great to meet someone face to face, but if you are purposeful in the way you use social media, you can also be effective.
How about you? How do you prioritise face to face networking amongst the demands of being a working parent?