Social Media has made it possible to maintain more relationships than ever before. Some would argue that while this is true, these relationships are shallow, tainted, and potentially unhealthy. I would argue it’s ultimately not the medium, but how we engage with it that can result in either amazing and fulfilling relationships or something that’s empty and flat.
Many of my closest friends are current/former customers, team members, vendors, etc. These are the people with whom I’ve spent a lot of time and accomplished big things. It makes sense that we would build solid mutually beneficial relationships. By mutually beneficial, I mean we crush it together, we play together, and enjoy life together. Outside of my family, I can’t think of more rewarding relationships. I use social media as a way to nurture and hold on to these great relationships.
So how do you use social media to develop, build, and nurture these types of relationships? Start by using it for the intended purpose…as a communication tool. Social isn’t meant to be some kind of magical lead generation machine and anyone who tells you it is, is just trying to sell you something.
Six Steps for Building Digital Relationships
Social media is an extension of the real world and you can utilize the same techniques to build and nurture relationships you’ve used your whole life. That’s good news since you really aren’t learning something new, but simply how to apply what you already know digitally.
Step One: Meet and greet
Building relationships always start with meeting new people. The best place to meet new people is in the real world. Inviting and/or following every new person you meet in social media is critical. This should include the major platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook but can also include lifestyle apps. For example, I am a mountain biker and jogger and have Strava and Fitbit apps on my phone. Both of these apps connect to my contacts and I can follow connections here as well. I love this because it gives me an opportunity to encourage my connections who are also into fitness.
You can also meet new contacts directly from social media. This is fairly simple in social media since most users activity is open to the public. However, some platforms are better than others. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are terrific starting points. LinkedIn is my favorite because of its search tools, groups, and networking capabilities.
Step Two: Get your connections talking
Social media is a communication platform which means you and your contacts need to be talking. Asking questions is always a good conversation starter. If you can tie a question to a compliment even better? For example, ‘Joe, great article! Where do you think [related industry, company, technology, product, etc.] will be in 5 years?’
Remember to talk about what is important to your connections or a particular contact. For example, you could look for useful content like a blog or a video that you think they would appreciate and share it publicly but tag in your connection. “Found this great video on XXXXX and it made me think of @NameOfYourFried in know she loves XXXXX. Hope you enjoy it!”
Another example is to memorialize times when you are together in the real world.
Step Three: Rekindle the fire
One of the easiest things you can do is to upload your email contacts. LinkedIn is the best platform for this. Here are a couple of videos that will walk you through the process of a) exporting your contacts out of email and b) uploading them into LinkedIn.
Step Four: Learn and discover
Take the time to get to know your contacts so you can connect on a human level and build your relationship on common ground. People provide a lot of information about themselves in their bios and in what they share. It’s important to learn their skills, what types of clients are they looking for, and what kind of help they need to accomplish their objectives/goals/dream. Other items to look for include:
- Did you go to the same college, belong to the same fraternity/sorority?
- Did they serve in the Military? Be sure to thank them for their service.
- What kind of food do they like?
- Where do they like to go on vacation?
- What do they do for fun?
This will be key for the next step.
Step Five: Encourage and promote
Start sharing, liking, and commenting on your connections’ posts. This will keep you top of mind and help them extend the reach of what they are sharing.
You will also want to become a professional introducer. This is how you can really start adding value to your relationships. Always be on the lookout for people to connect together. The key here is to connect two people in your network who could benefit each other. In this way, you become like a sommelier who pairs great food with the perfect wine. In this case, you are pairing great people who can help each other reach newer heights.
Step Six: Nurture with knowledge
This last step is crucial. To stay top of mind and set yourself up as a subject matter expert and plan on posting something valuable 2-3 times per week. This could be a blog/white paper/video from your company or something you find online that would educate or inspire your audience. We have great content you can share right on our blog. In a way, you become like the daily newspaper for your connections, but you get to decide what to share. Other great examples could be Ted Talks, industry reports, new research. Great sources for finding content are Google, YouTube, and SlideShare.
Social Selling Rules for Building Real “Business” Relationships in a Social Media World
- Learn what your connections are trying to accomplish, how can you help them, and who might be a good connection from your network you could introduce them to.
- Avoid premature presentation and don’t fly into your sales pitch the minute you make a new connection.
- Say thank you when someone shares or comments on your posts.
- Get the conversation started by asking questions and tagging your contacts.
- Have fun and be genuine
- Always be positive and don’t be braggadocious or a complainer. People don’t care about your accomplishments or what’s ailing you.
- Understand it’s a multi-threaded world. Relationships don’t exist in a silo. Be prepared to communicate across multiple channels. Let your contact choose where they are most comfortable. Don’t fall into the trap of relying solely on asynchronous communication (sending emails, texting, or direct messaging) because it’s simple and fast.
Remember to leverage Social Media as a communication tool NOT a sales or lead gen tool. It’s about helping not selling. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was, “If you want to be sure to hit your quota every year, then go out and find as many people you can help to achieve their goals or solve their problems, and your quota will take care of itself.” This truth has been my passion from the time I heard it as a junior salesman back in 1990 to now and it has had a tremendous impact professionally and personally. Social Media is just another extension to stay connected and spread the value. Now get out and serve someone!