Objections to online networking

Stephanie West-Allen, a great advocate and practitioner of online networking, recently posted a question on one of the lists we’re on together about the various objections she gets from people about online networking. Never one to keep my opinion to myself about a topic I’m passionate about, I gave my replies.

Maybe you’re hesitant yourself, and some of them will help address some of your own concerns. Or maybe you’re trying to persuade some friends and colleagues who aren’t as into it as you are, and this will help:

Objection: It takes too much time to figure out/monitor. Are the benefits really
worth it?

Yes. Forget about me — I’m a bit unusual because this is my core business. But for example, I recently made a referral to someone through purely online networking (Ryze, in fact), that turned into a $10K+ deal for them. They’re a web design firm — a few employees, not just a one-man shop — and they have reported to me that fully 5% of their business this year has come directly from Ryze.

What’s a 5% increase in your sales worth to you? Surely $10 a month and a half an hour a day, right?

Objection: I do my networking offline and this lacks the personal touch. It can’t
create a real relationship/trust.

Untrue. My co-author and I have been working together well over a year. He’s probably one of the most trusted business relationships I’ve ever had. And yet, he and I have still not met face-to-face. I routinely do 4-figure consulting deals without ever meeting face-to-face.

Frankly, especially if someone blogs, you can learn far more about them in fifteen minutes of reading what they’ve written than you can in fifteen minutes of talking to them, because we read, on average, about twice as fast as we talk. Plus, you’re “listening” the entire time online.

Besides, people can develop enough trust to propose marriage to each other only having met online — why should business relationships be different?

Objection: This is for the younger kids.

NOT! Even Tribe, which attracts a younger crowd in general, is 28% people in the 31-40 age bracket. I don’t have data on the other networks, but a random scan through Ryze or Ecademy will certainly contradict this perception.

Objection: No really professional/established people use this.

HAH! This one’s easy… LinkedIn has folks like Pierre Omidyar, Esther Dyson, Marc Andreessen, Flip Filipowski, and many more. Ecademy has a number of Directors and VPs from Microsoft Europe, BT, and others. Even on Ryze, I’ve met a former Fortune 100 President, the CKO of Ernst & Young Canada, a Managing Director of the Chasm Group, and many, many other very senior people. On Spoke, you’ll find all kinds of people — maybe not as members, but accessible through members. There are also other, more exclusive communites — the MBA Association, The Square, et al.

Objection: Maybe the value of this will eventually build but I will wait and see.

Fine. Wait and see. By then, the early adopters will have built up a wealth of social capital, and you’ll be playing catchup. If it has value for you ever, it has value for you to do.

Objection: This is for the introverted people who don’t like direct communication.

Yeah, right. Anyone here ever met me face-to-face? I’m a total extrovert. I max out the scale on “E” in the Myers-Briggs. Lots of other extroverts I know. Heck, on Tribe, there’s a dedicated group just for ENTPs (like me).

Objection: Okay, are people really getting business there?

Yes. How much evidence do people need? This may sound really harsh, but flat out… if you’re not getting business through online networking, either a) you’re not doing it right, or b) you don’t have a credible product/service.

Objection: They are not free-flowing enough.

I’m not sure what this means. Once you get into a direct conversation with someone, it’s as free-flowing as you want to make it.

What objections have you heard (or do you have)? How have you answered objections from others? Please leave your comments below.