How to build true relationships via social media
At Edenchanges we tend to blog about social media matters on Tuesdays. Now this particular Tuesday happens to be special because it is also Valentine’s Day. So I thought I’d take that as the theme for the blog and look at how you can establish real relationships online.
And the first thing I want to say is that IT IS possible to form real relationships online via social media. To understand how that is possible it helps if we take a step back and consider what makes for a good relationship in the real world.
There are three common characteristics in most good relationships…strong levels of respect, communication and trust. (Just consider your own good relationships either currently or in the past to consider how true that is.)
So let’s see how we can cultivate these building blocks of relationships online…
For myself communication is a fundamental component in all relationships. Indeed when delivering communication training I usually make the point that when you improve your communication skills you improve the quality of every relationship that you will ever have – a strong statement but justified I believe.
The great thing with social media is that is provides a variety of ways to communicate with people. On LinkedIn for example there are over fifteen different ways to communicate with your connections or people you share groups with!
What makes this powerful is that you can choose the method that fits the directness of the message you are sending. So for example if you want to subtly tell your connections (who will probably include some potential new clients) that you have successfully won a new piece of business then on LinkedIn you might post that as a Status Update.
On the other hand if wanted to directly let someone know the same news (perhaps because they are a similar type of company to the one who has just decided to use you) then you could send a Direct Message.
The direct message route would be the best option when you were looking to keep things out of the general public spot light. Anyone with a large network will probably end up with a few competitors in there! (Or at the very least people who know your competitors!)
And if a direct message was too direct then you could take the middle path of posting a Discussion in a Group. By picking a group where other potential customers might be then you are communicating the clear signal that you are successful, in business and able to help people just like them.
Now this might all seem one-sided but what I am describing is simply the starting of the communication – the meeting of eyes across the crowded room or a hearty handshake – if you want a real world analogy. The actions above should result in some feedback which you then cultivate and open up into a full conversation.
Before we move on a final aspect of communication that is important to consider is that regular, consistent communication strengthens relationships.
As Dylan Thomas once wrote to a pen pal
“Better a paragraph now than a novel at the end of the month”
The more consistently that you communicate, whether subtly or directly, with your network the more they will know you, the stronger your relations will be and the higher the chances are that they will consider using your services.
Without mutual respect a relationship is at worst doomed and at best one-sided – and thus ultimately unsatisfying for at least one party in the relationship. Respect in relationships is born out of freely acknowledging the other person’s skills, abilities and values.
Social media makes this easy to do through simple options as in Liking someone’s update – possible on LinkedIn or Facebook by pressing the ‘Like’ button, pressing the +1 button on Google+ or by retweeting their tweet on Twitter.
Again the choices range from direct to subtle – ‘Liking’ something is fairly subtle to more direct – either adding a comment directly to their post (on LinkedIn or Facebook) or by sending them a direct message and referencing their conversation. Indeed when replying privately to someone on a LinkedIn discussion the text of their comment becomes the Subject heading of the message which hugely increases the chances of them reading it.
I can state as a fact that on LinkedIn the ‘Reply privately’ option on discussion threads has generated some very good conversations and connections for me.
So you can show respect for what people write and say and you can also earn some yourself through the same process. Further every time you post something of quality the readers, (and there will be readers even if no one comments!) will think a little more highly of you.
I think in a similar way trust is built up through a consist quality of communication. The more people see you able to communicate competently both on your specialist topic (i.e. the area you work in) or simply on wider topics then the more they are going to trust you.
Trust is also generated (or not!) via the condition of your profile or home page. On LinkedIn in particular your profile is in essence your shop window. If it looks out of date or incomplete then you aren’t going to be encouraging people to do business with you.
Having good quality recommendations will give your viewers grounds to trust you.
SUMMARY and a fourth characteristic…
So just as in the real world establishing strong relationships is about looking the part, talking sense, listening intelligently and respecting your partners skills, attributes and values.
Add in generosity, which I don’t have time to cover in-depth here without this blog become too large, and you are onto a winning formula!
Now go and have a great Valentine’s Day!
Until next time; be loving!
Corporate trainer and consultant
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- Can social media tools help to strengthen relationships? (marketing.yell.com)