I skipped last week’s post since I was at the TDWI conference for business intelligence last week. It was a successful conference on a number of levels. One huge AHA (more like duh) moment for me was the reaction I got when meeting my social network friends in person for the first time.

Let me set this up with a little background. As you know, I am a content marketer for high tech companies with a focus on BI. I attend conferences to stay current on technology and the software/hardware market. But I also attend for the opportunity to meet with vendors (who are my customers). Where else would you find so many of your customers in one place?

I’ve embraced social networking. I’ve been able to have conversations with so many people I would have never had the chance to meet otherwise. I’ve talked to industry analysts, BI experts, vendors, and peers. I’ve commented on their blog posts and they’ve commented on mine. We’ve retweeted links to great information and tweeted a mix of personal and business thoughts. We’ve connected on LinkedIn and some on Facebook.

But, what really seals the deal is getting to meet these great folks in person. Time after time I heard, “Oh, you’re @BIMarcom! Nice to finally meet you in person!”  I had lunches and dinners with these folks. I got to know them (and they me) on a more personal, intimate level.

An old, but still relevant article from Rider University on cyberspace vs. in-person relationships says:

The human face and body language are rich in meaning and emotion.

We get a lot from our cyber relationships, but we get so much more in person. The face gives off so many cues. Linking these cues to how the words are being said improves communication, even cyber communication. Having talked in person, I can better visualize how the person is reacting during our online conversation.

My relationships have taken a big step forward. Now when we tweet, comment, and post, we have faces for the names. Our communication is much richer and our relationships stronger. When a vendor has a need, chances have greatly increased that they will consider me.

What about you? Are you finding it too easy to hide behind your avatar? Or are you exploring all the ways to get in front of your customer in person?