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14 Oct, 2012

Survey Shows Social Sites Edging Out Face-to-Face Contact for Generating Business


MENLO PARK, Calif. , Oct. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Members of the C-suite are skipping the in-person meet-and-greet in favor of networking online, a new survey shows. Forty-five percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed for a Robert Half Management Resources survey said they now prefer to cultivate business relationships via social networking.

One-quarter of CFOs still favor in-person networking at events, meetings and conferences. The majority of respondents (60 percent) said their primary purpose for networking is to grow business.

The findings fly in the face of claims that face-to-face personal contacts can never be replaced and should serve as a clear warning to events of trade shows and exhibitions about the impact of technology. Slow but sure signs are now clearly emerging that technology is providing an alternative means of generating business, especially amongst overworked and stressed out senior executives who want to avoid the hassle of travel. Videoconferencing companies will be pushing this marketing angle big-time to drive up their revenue streams.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, a global provider of senior-level finance, accounting and business systems professionals on a project and interim basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

CFOs were asked, “How do you prefer to network professionally?” Their responses:

Networking online 45%
Attend professional events, meetings, conferences 25%
Email correspondence 22%
None/don’t network 7%
Other/don’t know 1%
TOTAL 100%


CFOs were also asked, “What is the primary purpose of your professional networking activities? Their responses:

Grow business 60%
Keep up with industry news and developments 20%
Find a new job 10%
Recruit new talent 7%
Other/don’t know 3%
TOTAL 100%


Paul McDonald , a senior executive director with Robert Half , noted that while online networking can be effective in reaching a large number of contacts, it shouldn’t replace more traditional approaches. “Having regular conversations remains essential for developing meaningful professional relationships, particularly for business development and hiring purposes,” he said. “Face-to-face meetings can build rapport in a way that electronic communication cannot. Most people still want some personal familiarity before doing business with someone or making a referral.”

Research shows that for most executives, professional networking is geared toward developing business leads (60 percent), rather than for pursuits like finding a job (10 percent) or recruiting talent (7 percent).

Robert Half Management Resources offers three tips to get the most from professional networking activities:

  • Don’t wait until you need something. If you reach out to your network only when you need help, you’ll weaken your ties. Be visible and keep in touch on a regular basis by commenting on your contacts’ updates, offering assistance and sharing news items.
  • Strike the right balance. Meeting in person takes more time and effort than connecting online but can deliver much more value over the long term. Develop relationships through one-on-one meetings and referrals. You can then stay in touch with contacts online or by email to keep the lines of communication open.
  • Stay in the know. Monitor social media to keep current on industry developments and your network’s reaction to them. The information you gather can give you valuable business insight.