Is Facebook Culture creeping into real life?

In October, Facebook crossed the 1 Billion user mark, suggesting that one out of every seven people on earth has a Facebook account (assuming all those accounts are real people and no one has multiple accounts).  According to Quantcast, there over 143 million users in the U.S. alone, which translates to about 1 out of every 2 americans is using Facebook.

There is no question that people have incorporated social media into their daily lives.  However, I still think of social media as creating “virtual relationships” not “real relationships”.  With real relationships you get to meet someone in person and see how they hold themselves.  Are they outgoing or shy?  Are they friendly or demanding?  Are they respectful or demanding?  Are they confident or unsure?

Meeting in person is the best way to develop the know, like and trust.  You can simulate that on the Internet (using video conferencing), but it is not the same.   There is something about shaking the person’s hand, seeing how they are dressed or exchanging a smile that makes a stronger connection, especially when it comes to developing their trust.

It’s strange, but virtual relationships are becoming more real today than real relationships.  Although I enjoy meeting with clients, most of my communications are virtual.  I speak with clients over the phone, I deliver documents via email, and I share news and other events using social media.  Typically, clients want to meet in person before hiring me (but not always) and then I seldom see them in person unless there is a major transaction or we happen to be members of the same networking group.

I’ve also noticed that virtual culture is starting to permeate our real life. A good example of this are networking groups. I’ve been doing a lot of in-person networking this year because I want to expand my local client base in Colorado and get to know other professionals; originally, I was from Massachusetts and I continue to work virtually with many of my clients.  I have been to at least 150 networking events this year (typically, 3-5 events per week).

Traditionally, networking meant getting to know someone and then developing a relationship over time.  According to the “Rule of Seven” by Dr. Jeffrey Lant, it takes at least seven contacts over 18 months to convert a prospect into a customer.  I think a similar rule applies to building a trust relationship with professionals.  Somehow, the process seems to be shorter online.  I receive daily requests to “friend” or “like” or “connect” with people I just met once at a networking event.  If I accept those requests, does that mean I really know, like and trust those people?

Call me skeptical, but I just don’t believe that everyone listed on your LinkedIn network is someone I should automatically trust.  I have started to notice that not only do people “friend” me online, they try to do the same thing in person.  It is a phenomenon that I call the “Instafriend”.  The Instafriend is someone who offers to do business with me without getting to know what I really do.  Hey!  You’re a lawyer, I know someone who needs a lawyer. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to get referrals, but they are so much more powerful when they come from someone who knows my talents and what kind of clients I can really help.

The best way to develop the “trust factor” is still in-person meeting and getting to know people over time.  For lawyers, every relationship is based on trust whether meeting in person or virtually.  Most of my clients come through referral from other professionals.  If those professionals don’t know me and trust that I can do great work, they won’t refer clients.  (Btw, if you can’t trust your lawyer, find a new one.)

I enjoy attending most networking groups, but I find that they are not that effective because the range of businesses is so broad.  I couldn’t find a group that was just focused on professionals who who work with growth-oriented businesses (e.g., 2-50 employees looking to expand).  So, I started a new focused networking group called “Power Professionals”.  If you are looking to network with other professionals in the Boulder/Denver area, feel free to join.

Roger Glovsky is co-founder of Indigo Venture Law Offices, a business law firm based in Colorado and Massachusetts, which provides legal counsel to entrepreneurs and high-tech businesses. Mr. Glovsky is also founder of InfoCrowd, a networking group for information entrepreneurs and, a collaboration and networking site for lawyers.

Comments are closed.