Taking the online relationship offline

There’s a person behind that screen!

There’s a person behind that screen!

The proliferation of social networking sites has undoubtedly increased the number of connections and interactions we have with friends and strangers on the internet. According to comScore, internet users now spend one out of every six of their online minutes on social networking sites, a huge increase since 2007 when only one out of every twelve minutes online were spent on these same sites. Some studies have suggested that because we are spending so much time online, our real relationships outside of the internet have suffered, while others have said that we are using our online time to build relationships with existing friends or with people who become real contacts that we then spend time with offline. As a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project explains, “Some worry that as a result of using these services, people may become more isolated and substitute less meaningful relations for real social support. Others believe this might enrich and expand relationships.”

In either case, we can all confirm the importance of nurturing relationships in both realms. Social networks and online communities allow us to interact with others from around the world on any number of subjects, but there are still many times when meeting face-to-face can provide real benefits.

In public relations, this is especially crucial. We spend a lot of time tracking the articles, blog and Facebook posts, tweets and other forms of digital communications leveraged by reporters, and we follow up in these same mediums or via email, but connecting outside of computer and smartphone screens brings a deeper level of understanding and respect to your relationship.

A recent opportunity to take a predominantly online relationship offline occurred for several communications professionals and journalists when a well-regarded San Francisco-based TechCrunch writer announced that he was leaving the outlet to join another publication. Immediately after announcing his departure, an enormous number of tweets and Facebook posts were directed his way, asking about and commenting on his new plans, demonstrating how many people, whether virtual or in-person contacts, were alerted to his departure via social media platforms. To give him a proper send-off, his TechCrunch colleagues used Facebook and Twitter to organize an in-person celebration.

In addition to several TechCrunch writers, reporters from a number of other publications, like Wired, attended, and because the event was posted on Facebook, friends both real and digitally sourced were able to join. Many of the contacts who may have just had an online relationship with the reporter turned out to say hello.

By taking the online relationship offline, you set yourself apart and give any connection, but especially reporters who get hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of emails, tweets, Facebook messages, etc., a day, another way to remember who you are and what you can offer. Despite the number of people now tracing connections at least partially to digital beginnings, offline relationships are as important as ever and taking the time to meet in-person can remind both parties that there is a real person behind those screen names and profiles.

 

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