I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of networking, and what impact leveraging your small business networks has on your business. Darren Rowse @ Problogger.net put together a great post (and nice graphic) detailing what makes up his social media network at Problogger, which got me thinking. Darren put together this idea based on some work done by Chris Brogan, which starts frames the idea of “Hubs and Outposts” as they relate to web presence and social media. The idea being that we all should have a “hub” or home base in the virtual world surrounded by outpost which act as our virtual networks/outlets.
This got me thinking that what Darren was sharing, and the concepts Chris developed, were only one half of the equation for most small business owners. I began to think of our networks more as interconnected webs with infinite possibility to make contacts and connections to further our business, split between two halves – the Virtual Social Network and the Physical Social Network.
Notice how elements of one network overlap with the other. For example, your customers may be on Facebook, or Twitter even if you don’t have a presence there. As small business owners our job is to learn about how these networks interconnect and overlap, and then put a plan in place to best leverage those networks. Not only should we have Hubs and Outposts in our online communities, but in our “real world” communities as well.
If you have a brick and mortar storefront, why aren’t you on Twitter, or Facebook? Your customers are! If you run an online business why haven’t you partnered with the local Chamber of Commerce or Networking groups in your area? They go online! As small business owners we should have two hubs. One resides in a Virtual Social Network and the other in a Physical Social Network, with both hubs being surrounded by numerous interconnected outposts. You must have organisational skills to ace productivity within business, and when you narrow down and organise these customer outposts, there are a lot of tools that will reduce the work of reaching them.
The lines have not only gotten blurred between Virtual networks and Physical networks they have been obliterated! By overlooking either side of the Social Networking equation you are overlooking one of the most important elements to your businesses success. What do you think? Is your business effectively operating in Virtual and Physical Social Networks?