This concept used to be referred to at ‘let the buyer beware’. It was a warning without wisdom’s benefit. I have found that there is another step to this original warning that can assist us in becoming conscious, educated consumers. My lessons have come recently in two areas of my professional life. They are in-person networking and Social Media.
First I would like to settle one controversy that arose at a recent lecture I attended on Social Media. In-person networking and Social Media can make a perfect marriage for the client and customer seeker as well as those that wish to make personal connections.
If one meets on line, through one of the big three (facebook, twitter or LinkedIn) by the time there is an in-person meeting, there is already a rapport and comfort level. The same is true in reverse. When someone meets a potential colleague, client or customer, Social Media provides many degrees of friendliness to professionalism depending upon which venue is used to pursue communication.
To get back to my initial concern about becoming a conscious, educated consumer in both arenas, in-person networking and Social Media, both need to be approached with caution. Yes, let the buyer beware, but how?
That is the question I wish to answer here. Let’s look at in-person networking first. In my experience, there are several types of in-person networking groups:
• the kind that is set up as a for profit business and usually allows one person per industry to join
• the kind that is supposedly free
• the kind that charges a nominal fee for each event or meeting
• Chambers of Commerce that serve commerce and community
It is important to look below the surface when considering joining a group. Some can be rather costly in both money and time so it is important to choose wisely.
In the case of the first type, ask yourself and those interviewing you (if the group does that), if you feel comfortable with the existing members.
Do you feel that you would come to trust these people enough to stake your reputation on them and refer them to your clients, colleagues and other people that you know?
Are there any potential membership conflicts? If there are, get them cleared up before you join. Make sure it is all written down, too.
Concerning the second or supposedly free type, it is important to find out the motivation of the leader and what fuels him or her to have the group. If there is a business that depends upon the attendees using this person’s services, then it is not really free.
On the other hand if the group charges a nominal fee straight up and there is no hidden agenda, it may be the real deal. But I have only found that to be the case once so far.
Chambers of Commerce are a horse of a different color. They are essential to communities in many ways. I personally belong not so much for the benefit of my business but to support my community and to meet my fellow business owners. If something comes from it to my business’ benefit, it is an unexpected perk.
Now I want to discuss briefly how to be a conscious consumer of Social Media. At the basic level, most are free. Webinars offered by the various gurus are also free. But when one is asked to upgrade or pay a nominal fee for something, watch out. There is a very smooth system developed by very slick sales people who prey on our weaknesses, insecurity and vulnerability. One of the biggest give aways is if the term ‘a once in a life time opportunity that will never come around again’ is used. If you hear that, put your credit card away and go to another site.
If you do decide to invest in a higher level of a venue, always use a credit card to make a purchase. That way, when a charge is posted, it can be disputed by contacting both the seller and the credit card company. Debit cards are pretty much useless in this area. So letting the buyer beware involves becoming a conscious, informed and educated consumer.