Combine Social Media With Face to Face Networking Says Firm Founder
Sandy Ibanez (BBA ’08) has always had a knack for networking. As a student at the University of Houston C.T. Bauer College of Business, she learned early on that building relationships with others will get you much further than you could ever expect on your own.
Now, as an alumna of the college’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship and owner of her own social media consulting company, she carries out that principle everyday – both in her personal life and in her business.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping other people, and networking is one way I can do that,” Ibanez said.
Since graduating, Ibanez has helped numerous friends, colleagues and fellow Cougars expand their networks by connecting them to others with similar professional interests. Her passion for networking led her to launch SRC Group (Socially Redefined Communications), a Houston-based social media firm specializing in the setup and maintenance of Web 2.0 accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter and MySpace, among others.
SRC Group’s clients run the gamut from local restaurants to public figures and television personalities who want to expand their reach and manage their personal online brand reputation. Ibanez helps them get set up online and connected to the networks where they have the most potential to influence their key audiences.
As much as she advocates the use of social networking, Ibanez says the online tools will never replace face-to-face interaction. In fact, she says, the two should go hand-in-hand.
“Social networking and traditional networking are most effective when you use them together,” she says. “When you meet someone through a social network, you start to feel like you know them, so when you see them in person you are more likely to go up and introduce yourself. Meeting someone through social media increases the chance you will meet them in real life.”
Other ways social media can help you make the most of traditional networking (and vice versa) include:
- Social media gives you a quick, unobtrusive way to follow up with contacts you meet at events. Sending someone an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook as soon as you get back to your computer helps ensure you won’t be forgotten before your next encounter.
- While it would be nice to attend every networking event, most people don’t have the time. Scanning RSVP lists and messages on social network event pages lets you choose your events strategically, so you can maximize your time out of the office.
- Social media provides valuable insight on what’s going on in the business community. By scanning the social networking profiles of your key contacts, you might find a conversation starter for the next time you meet in person.
Social Networking Success in Action
Seeing her clients succeed inspired Ibanez to apply her expertise within one of her networking groups in need of a boost, the UH Hispanic Alumni Association (HAA). After a long period of inactivity, HAA had retained only a handful of people who could call themselves members.
To launch the campaign, Ibanez created profiles for the HAA on LinkedIn and Facebook and began to publicize the group’s existence, using the online networks to identify new members and reach out to members who had simply fallen out of touch.
In addition, they held several networking events throughout the year, including a student and alumni mixer with the UH Hispanic Business Student Association and a holiday party and toy drive sponsoring the Barrio Center, all promoted through Facebook.
The group mushroomed in size in a matter of months. With the increased involvement, HAA surpassed its fund raising goal and for the first time in several years was able to award student scholarships. Along with other criteria, this resulted in Banner Year recognition from the UH Alumni Association, a huge honor for the recently resurrected group.
“Our networking events, complimented by our growth in online networks had a huge impact on our success,” Ibanez said. “We went from having a group of less than 10 people to a group with more than 300 followers online. The impact of our growth is exponential. Each person that joins our network creates another link to new jobs, new members, new mentors, etc.”
No matter what you have time for, Ibanez says doing something is better than nothing at all.
“If you don’t network, your business simply will not grow. Networking helps you find out what is going on in your community and how it affects you,” she says.
For Ibanez, networking goes much deeper than business.
“I’m always willing to give a lending hand, and I like knowing if I can’t help someone, I can probably find someone in my network that can. Once you build connections and understand people’s dreams and goals, you help one another grow both professionally and as a person. That’s a pretty powerful thing.”
By Lori Reichardt