Why and How to Build Stronger Relationships Online
So, you’ve got hundreds of LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers. Now what?
Along the way, maybe somebody told you, or you decided for yourself, that having a strong social media presence would be a good way to grow your network marketing business. And you know that it’s a numbers game, so the more people you can connect with, the better, right?
Not necessarily. While there’s generally no particular harm in connecting with as many people as possible, it may not be the best and highest use of your time. If those relationships aren’t actionable, how valuable are they really?
How actionable a relationship is depends on the context. For example, you might give some change, maybe even a dollar, to a stranger in front of you who’s coming up a little short at the register. You might offer to pay for dinner for a friend in a group who forgot their wallet, but you probably wouldn’t do it for the table next to you. You might loan a family member some money to start a business without a lot of questions, but with an acquaintance, you’d want to do some due diligence – get to know each other better.
This concept is known as the “action threshold”, and understanding it is critical if you want to grow your business with social media.
Consider this example: is it more valuable to have a) 10 connections who will share and comment on nearly everything you post, b) 100 connections who frequently like something you post, or c) 1,000 connections who rarely, if ever, read what you post?
Who is more likely to sign up for your business? The person who happens to catch one post from you about your business in their social stream, along with the hundreds of other similar posts they see? Or the old friend who you actually talk to maybe once a year, but who sees all your posts, and, over time, notices how much healthier, happier and more successful you’ve become?
Point is, they have to know you fairly well to even take notice—for your story to cut through the noise. They have to know you fairly well to have some trust that this opportunity is real, and not just marketing hype. They have to feel like you care about their well-being and not just your own.
So how do you build stronger relationships online? How do you turn an acquaintance into a friend or a friend into an ally?
While it’s true that face-to-face interaction can certainly help strengthen relationships, it’s not an absolute requirement. In fact, many of the tactics for strengthening relationships simply happen more often face-to-face, but can be equally effective—sometimes even more so—online.
You know how when you meet someone for the first time, and you start discovering that you have a couple of things in common, it’s like, “Small world!” You discover four or five things in common, and it becomes “What a coincidence!” Get to 10, and you start cracking jokes about being twins separated at birth! This is known as multiplexity, or simply, how much do you have in common? Social media is great for discovering multiplexity. All you have to do is read their social profiles and their last few posts, and you’ll undoubtedly find some common ground. Be sure to post as much as you’re willing to on your own profiles to help others do the same with you.
People give trust when they receive trust. Be willing to put yourself out there. Open the kimono. Share something that stretches you beyond your comfort zone. You being open creates a safe place for them to be open, and that creates a bonding experience.
Make (and Keep) Microcommitments
If you say you’re going to like their post, like their post. Tell them you’re going to read and comment on their blog, and then do it. Forward those LinkedIn connection requests in a timely manner. Set an appointment for a call with them and keep it—be right on time for it. Each little bit of promise and fulfillment builds trust and rapport.
Don’t wait for them to ask you—take the initiative. People really do notice and appreciate social media interaction. Likes are good; shares are better; comments are best. Make introductions to relevant and interesting people.
There is perhaps no better builder of relationships than working together on (and preferably achieving) a common goal. And there’s no shortage of opportunities to do this online: petitions, crowdfunding campaigns, virtual summits, joint ventures, etc. Seek those out, and if you can’t find them, create your own.
Put in the Time
Building strong relationships takes time. Sure, sometimes people are drawn together instantly as a result of some major emotional event—usually a traumatic one—but as an intentional strategy, you have to invest the time. That may mean having a private, one-on-one conversation, or reading and commenting on their blog posts, or giving them feedback on something before they send it out. Time may be the one resource that’s in truly scarce supply, so you want to choose wisely how you spend your time, but that’s also why people appreciate it so much.
Author Bob Burg describes the Golden Rule of Networking simply:
“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”
If you want to grow your business, you’ve got to focus on increasing the number of people who know, like, and trust you, not who’ve merely agreed to click a button.
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