9 Ways to Build Relationships on Social Media

Courtesy of Tight Mix Blog

What is the value of your likes, follows, and friends on social networks? Is more necessarily merrier?

Thanks to a recent episode on Michael Stelzner's Social Media Marketing podcast, I was intrigued with the notion of generating a Return On Relationship from Ted Rubin, an experienced social media marketing expert.

Relationships is the new social currency. Nobody buys from somebody they don't like. Often, decisions are made from the heart rather than the head.  

In a world flooded with billions of blog posts, Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter accounts, the best way for us to differentiate ourselves is to build strong, authentic relationships with our communities.

There were many great ideas being shared by Ted and I strongly encourage you to listen to the podcast for yourself. The key takeaways I got from the podcast were as follows:

1) It is isn't the sheer numbers of fans or followers which count. Rather, it is the degree of engagement which your fans have with you that count. To up the fan-love, dedicate time and effort to building relationships with your listeners, followers and fans.

2) Being reactive and responsive is a vital first step in sustaining social relationships. When fans leave a comment or posts on your Facebook Timeline, do spend some time responding. Similarly, if a Twitter follower tweets about a topic related to your business, it pays to respond to them directly if possible. You cannot afford to ignore them and hope that they would come back to you.

3) Beyond being reactive, you also need to be proactive when you cultivate online relationships. This means that you need to get out of your Internet ivory towers and visit the Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter accounts of your fans/followers. Find out where they come from, what they're interested in, what they do at work, what groups they join, and what their family situations are.

4) Once you know who your fans are, consider personalising your interactions with them. This may include visiting their Facebook profile pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs to leave a message, or responding to their comments in a directly relevant way. For example, if you know that they are a teacher, you could say something about how your kid enjoys school so much because he has great teachers.

5) Go ahead, reveal some personal details about yourself. Share a little about your family life (Ted was upfront in revealing that he was a divorced father of a daughter), what your hobbies are, as well as the country or city where you live. Naturally, you need to fore-go some privacy, but the returns are likely to be worth the disclosure. Here I suppose some common-sense may be useful. For example, I'd avoid mentioning my home address or reveal the license plate of my car.

6) If you frequently speak at conferences, spend time to network with other speakers. While this may mean foregoing attending some of the sessions, it could be rewarding in terms of the relationships strengthened and gained. In any case, you probably already know most of the theoretical stuff anyway!

7) In the words of the legendary Dale Carnegie in his classic book How to Win Friends & Influence People,  a "person's name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language." Learn this age-old secret and address your fans by name if possible.

8) Get your brand advocates into the act. In fact, according to Ted, the best advocates you can have for your business are your employees. While this may not be possible in all organisations, you should endeavour to get as many of them to be your relationship marketers as possible. I believe the same principles then apply - showing an interest in your staff, encouraging them to express themselves, and connecting with them on a more personal level.

9) Finally, the best way to build relationships is to organise face to face gatherings. Nothing beats seeing your fans in real life (IRL) and to "press the flesh" with a handshake. If you've revealed enough about yourself and done sufficient homework on your fans, you would have lots of stuff to talk about despite meeting each other for the first time.

Beyond the above, what else can we do to strengthen the quality of our engagements with fans, followers and friends on social networks? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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