Building online influence through amassing connections on social media platforms (alone) is a flawed plan. I’ve often compared relating to people on social media platforms to meeting friends in a coffee shop or bar.

When you go to a coffee shop, you can meet someone you already know or you can strike up a conversation with a total stranger.

You can meet several new friends during the course of an hour. You can learn from them, laugh, and then walk away and never see them again.

Coffee shops are comfortable, and bars are a fun place to talk, but you are unlikely to build sustainable relationships unless you take the relationship farther and exchange contact information with a plan to meet again.

I’ve had many prospective clients tell me they don’t have an email list but they have hundreds (or thousands) of connections on LinkedIn. While a connection on LinkedIn is more lasting than a casual encounter in a coffee shop,there’s still a step missing.

Being connected on LinkedIn is a powerful way to access influencers while growing valuable relationships and a strong network,  but sharing content or sending a message on LinkedIn is still far inferior to sending someone an email message directly, sending a text message, or calling on the phone.

And last week’s news that LinkedIn initiated changes to how users could download data (changes that could take up to 72 hours) and this week’s news that they’re reverting that change, bolstered my conviction that any significant work anyone wants to do online MUST be on their own domain.

Check out  the headline on Fortune: LinkedIn brought back this popular feature.

Why is it popular? Because people see value in their connections. They want a way to contact connections easily — outside of LinkedIn, the same way that you’d want to exchange business cards with a kindred spirit before leaving a great coffee-shop conversation.

The only data you own and control online is the data you create or collect on your own domain. The only contacts you can reliably count on are the ones who have opted-in to your email subscriber list or the one whose contact information you can easily access.

Go ahead and find/form as many relationships on LinkedIn as you can. It’s a powerful platform. Adding connections on LinkedIn will exponentially increase the reach of your network.

And don’t stop meeting people in coffee shops, airport bars, or conference happy hours.

But don’t make those casual encounters the end of your relationship building and don’t grow your connections on LinkedIn as the primary focus of your influence building strategy. Doing so will put you at risk of loss of data or the ability to connect, if (when) LinkedIn changes their platform again. Instead, use LinkedIn as a place to connect and focus instead on providing content of value that will inspire people to subscribe to your email list so they can stay connected to you

Social media platforms are a convenient place to find and form relationships, but if you want to have a deeper, more connected relationship, you have to take the relationship out of the coffee shop, finding a way to stay in touch with a real-life friend who matters.