Is there a difference between business networking and social networking?
It’s the proverbial elephant in the office of every social media consultant. Those of us who make a living selling clients on the power of online social media, may get a bit uneasy when confronting distinctions between business networking and social networking. Business networking and social networking are in their infancy but I think the following points will become increasingly important as society moves beyond the initial sensation of social media.
Business Networking is for Profit, Social Networking is for Fun
Socializing with professionals does not necessarily constitute business networking. Ultimately, you’re in business to make money; business networking is a means to that end. Business networking involves at least two professionals working toward a common goal. At it’s essence, business networking is about generating more sales.
The benefits of social networking are as varied as the people who are networking. Some people are on social networking sites to express themselves, some derive pleasure spying on good (and not so) acquaintances, some get satisfaction from sharing media and ideas, some to like to gossip, and some people may social network to pass time.
The Benefits of Business Networking are Quantifiable, The Benefits of Social Networking are Personal and Indefinite
Business networking activities have a measurable return. That’s not to say that every phone call, message, or conversation has a fixed dollar amount however, looking back at your efforts over a given period, you need to be able to identify which activities have helped boost sales and which were time miss used. If you have a friend in a traditional networking group such as the Chamber of Commerce or BNI, you can be sure they are monitoring how much their investment of time, effort and membership fees is panning out.
People have very little expectation for a tangible return on social networking.
Business Networking is Expensive, Social Networking is Free (Well, sort of)
Many experts say that in our fast-paced digital age, “time” has overtaken “money” as the scarcest commodity. While most sites offer free business networking, the real question isn’t “What are the fees?” but rather, “What is the return on the time invested?”. Consider this: If you spend just a half an hour of your work day on business networking sites, you’re spending over 10 hours a month. Now suppose you make $20 an hour; that’s over $200 a month.
Of course, social networking is time consuming as well. Assuming that you are social networking when you would otherwise not be working, then the cost of social networking is, “anything else you could be doing with that time.”