Two separate things happened to me in the past four days that are starting to connect a theory around the value of human touch and social media.
I had lunch in Columbus, Ohio on Friday with a colleague who lives and works in central Wisconsin who asked me casually, “Do you know how many people were on the plane flaying out here?” I didn’t know, but I suspected it was packed, as the once-a-day from nowhere, Wisconsin to Columbus usually is.
“It was a 737. Every other row was occupied. There was almost nobody on the flight,” he mused.
This is good news for the airlines as their little experiment in the ’90s with low airfares all but destroyed the value of flying. So too for trade shows who are caught in the same loop of having to attract people to the shows, but charging little to get a crowd.
Networking is becoming a commodity. The more the social media experts and evangelists talk up the value of being able to reach out and connect with anyone anywhere, the more valuable human touch becomes. For trade associations that are forward-thinking and can weather this economy, selling human touch in a sea of social media will be like selling beluga caviar in a tilapia marketplace.
Trade shows are not going to go away. Nor are newspapers, executive conferences, books, in-person meetings or retreats. But, they are going to become more valuable, albeit smaller. While Twitter, blogs and email may start a relationship, human touch will almost always close those with the most value.
The challenge in the years ahead for trade groups who sell networking is to build value around the parts that require human touch, to squeeze as much value out of them without choking the participants and to not squander the precious drops they create.
Is your organization poised to do that? It better be.