All communities need gathering places--the corner pub, the office lunchroom, the neighborhood bookstore, the local hobby shop, the village church, that hip downtown music club, or the hotel ballroom...all places where people can gather in groups.

Can belly-to-belly truly create community within networks? You can't create true community with a single annual convention, or even quarterly regionals. Community doesn't exist based on one or two functions per year. Community is difficult to establish if your group is spread around the country. The solution has always been to involve pockets of people in a particular area--but that may take you out of the equation.

Virtually, a gathering place can be a mailing list, a discussion topic, a chat room, a multi-player game, a forum or bulletin board, a website, or some combination of these.

Virtual communities are social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace. Virtual communities echo physical communities, in that all communities are based on timeless social dynamics that transcend the medium of connection. In other words, people are people, even in cyberspace.

The greatest aspect of the Internet world is its ability to foster communication. Isn't community all about communication? Isn't it built on social relations and quality interaction? Isn't that precisely what we must do to create a permanent income in our profession?

As of two years ago, face-to-face selling (including home, workplace, temporary locations and other locations) represented 77.3 percent of our annual $26.69 billion in sales; remote selling (including phone, internet and other) was 22.7 percent of sales dollars and growing (from DSA's 2001 Growth & Outlook Survey). The current remote selling numbers are probably much higher. (Also, these figures represent sales, not recruiting--and to me, recruiting is where the real power of virtual shines!)

With the Internet, you won't get the personal touch and that eye-to-eye connection. Yet no business owner can function without the telephone--and this is the final tool in the virtual ensemble. The phone reinforces the credibility, the emotions, the facts and figures one has already previewed. It establishes the rapport needed to begin a lasting relationship. When you take the time to do a one-on-one telephone consultation to support the new rep's decision, it creates the affirmation that there is a true partnership. It builds belief when you have group interactive conference calls. It keeps you in the equation.

 

CHERYL GONZALEZ
is founder of EZNetGroup.net, a company helping networkers get the most from their online follow-up systems. She lives with her husband, Vic, in San Antonio, Texas.