The New Networking

March 14, 2018
Younger decision makers mean social media is becoming more relevant for networking and marketing.

In some ways, business hasn’t changed. Gaining new customers and learning new solutions requires talking to others. Customers are still your best selling tool. Candid conversations and roundtables are still some of the best opportunities to ask other operators how they handle specific challenges and obstacles. However, it’s no longer the only way. 

Enter social media

Social media sites may have started with college students, but they have morphed into much more. Social media can turn business and networking on its head. There are now more ways than ever to talk to people, more content to read, more posts upon which to comment, and more videos to watch. Arguably not all of this is good, but the point is that for today, it is reality.
In fact, I would argue that social media melds networking and lead generation together in many ways, because it’s harder to control who is seeing your posts. Social media by its very nature is online for anyone to view, and operators have long struggled with how best to use it. Some use it to reach out to each other reading and commenting on the latest industry news, discussing how best to upgrade control boards, etc. Others focus on decision makers with information about improving workplace culture and the return on investment of convenience services. Still others focus on building a company personality on social media, posting interesting tidbits meant for building a network of people that like/follow/join them.

Scott Unter, president of BrewSmart Beverage, this month’s success story, fits into this last group. He heavily uses Facebook and other social media sites to engage with people, whether those people are decision makers, consumers of his coffee service or just people wishing to connect with a great Chicago company. It fits with his business model of moving beyond norms and making everyone a potential customer. Read the profile of BrewSmart on page 42 to find out more about pushing boundaries. 

Meeting in the middle

Unter points out that the decision makers in his area are increasingly of the Millennial generation, around age 30. They use social media, are comfortable navigating the internet and use both to research potential companies. They form judgments about potential service providers based on what they see, from the emotional connections formed from positive or funny social media posts to the informative, solution-based details on a website. This group of people can no longer be ignored in favor of catering to the solutions that worked for the generation before. Those who prefer to stick with word-of-mouth marketing need to consider these trends and move a littler farther along the digital networking spectrum. 

In the end, to keep business moving forward requires adaptation. In this case, it means more use of social media than in previous years. It means adapting to a new idea of networking which blurs the lines of colleagues and customers. It means a mix of in-person events and prearranged Twitter chats (yes, these do exist). It’s all about creating a new normal with the tools at our disposal, which include the wide open world wide web.