Virtual Contacts 2 Real World Contacts?

I got this question on Twitter a couple of weeks ago:

Hello Jason, I am looking for an ans. hope you can help me.How do I translate ‘online’ connections into real world ones? thanks.

This is a great question, especially as we are encouraged to network online, and try and figure out if we want to connect on LinkedIn, or how we will accept Friends on Facebook, etc.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Email the person. This is super easy because it’s just a simple email… we all read email, we all write email. However, I get emails from people and can’t tell if it’s spam or form letters or real, genuine interest in me.  Be careful how you craft it – I don’t like anything too formal (looks like spam), and I trash stuff an email that is addressed to someone, but no my name (webmaster, sirs, etc. is not good enough).
  2. Ask the person to lunch. This is my favorite thing to do.  When I first started networking with bloggers in Utah I thought that they all knew one another, and that I was the outsider.  I quickly found out that very few of them had met face-to-face… sitting down for an hour or two, learning about them, and sharing time with them is a terrific way to start a relationship.
  3. Do them a favor. Perhaps introduce them to a network contact.  Or send them a book from Amazon.  Do something that shows them you are more than just someone trying to get more numbers in your network.  Don’t stalk, but be considerate and thoughtful.  I’m not good at this but have had the fortune of meeting a small handful of people who are amazing (Heather Gardner).
  4. Introduce them to someone in your network. This is free and so powerful.  Making connections between your contacts is an awesome thing to do for each person (including yourself).  You’ll be amazed at some of the connections you can make, and you will start to earn the confidence of individuals in your network.
  5. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Harder to do as your network gets bigger, but so important.  Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to stay relevant to your contacts!  I hear JibberJobber is a great tool to help keep up with follow-up things.

What do you suggest to translate virtual contacts to real world contacts?

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