In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, entrepreneurs are starting to appreciate the value of developing offline connections. While online tools can prove extremely helpful in expanding your network and making new connections, forging relationships in-person is becoming increasingly important for success. Entrepreneurs need social currency to realize their goals, and online connections make it difficult to develop relationships that are deep enough. While many entrepreneurs have experienced how much their lives can change after developing one key relationship, online connections will very rarely yield this kind of life-changing rapport. People increasingly need to focus on building relationships offline.
What It Means to Build Real Relationships with People Offline
As people begin to spend more time building connections using technology, they are spending less time actually forging bonds with people offline. Meeting people offline is quintessentially different from developing online connections. When people meet in the real world, they experience each other’s energy and begin to understand the other person in a way that is impossible to do online. Brene Brown has written extensively about the importance of human connections as a basic drive. As she explains, if our relationships are weak, then we ourselves will become weak. In other words, staying online to build a network instead of attending events and meeting people in the real world is a critical mistake that can keep entrepreneurs from realizing their dreams.
In the eyes of some people, building an online network comes across as lazy. While they are happy to connect in a professional capacity, they do not take much stock in the relationship. On the other hand, when people consistently show that they are willing to invest time and energy in meeting and talking to people, they demonstrate their true investment in the relationship. People will take the connection more seriously and may go out of their way to provide advice and assistance. This guidance can often mean the difference between success and failure. When entrepreneurs take time out of their busy schedules to build relationships offline, they gain respect and appreciation, as their connections deeply understand the time pressures placed on entrepreneurs.
Why Entrepreneurs Need Social Currency for Success
At the same time, entrepreneurs should never underestimate the value of social currency. For many people, the thought of attending conferences or other events to expand one’s network seems daunting. Forging relationships in person often forces people to step outside of their comfort zone and to embrace vulnerability. Part of the value in focusing on building social currency is the fact that surrounding yourself with successful people makes it more likely that a person will become successful. The opposite is also true: if a social network is not supportive and empowering, then achieving success will become much more difficult as new opportunities will not have a chance to arise.
Importantly, social currency does not derive solely from the value that comes from relationships, but also what individuals bring to their networks. The capacity to build valuable relationships is dependent on the ability to demonstrate value. Some entrepreneurs may wonder what value they can bring to a new business relationship, so it is important to dedicate time to soul-searching. While everyone has some value to bring, they need to figure out what it is. Sometimes, people can provide a unique perspective due to their unique backgrounds. Other times, individuals have training that is distinct from but complementary to entrepreneurship. Some people may simply have a knack for thinking outside the box and identifying distinctive solutions to problems.
The Limited Role of Online Tools in Building Social Currency
In the world of entrepreneurship, success largely arises from opportunities identified through one’s social network. Mentors, business partners, team members, and more can all connect entrepreneurs to opportunities that they would not otherwise have access to, and often it only takes one relationship to put people on the path toward success. Since entrepreneurs cannot predict which relationships will prove to be key in the future, it is critical to develop a large social network consisting of people from many different backgrounds and stages in their careers. Online tools still have a role to play. While entrepreneurs can use sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to identify those people whom they believe would be important to know, it is important to take the extra step and figure out how to meet in real life in order to build true connections.
The Internet is also a valuable way to locate events and meetups in one’s immediate geographic area. These events are a great way to meet other people in a similar situation who may be able to provide valuable insights. Entrepreneurs need to pay close attention to the value of the relationships they are building and perhaps refocus their time and energy on building new connections if they believe that their social currency is lacking. While technology can play an important role in this process, offline connections are nowadays the way to build truly meaningful relationships.