In social media it’s easy to get caught up in mechanical ideas of what building and maintaining relationships is about. Are you pinging your network regularly? Are you sharing content, creating value? Are you thanking people? In marketing, we start quantifying these things: How many tweets, how many retweets, how many followers or subscribers or fans?
And that’s fine. Except that it’s all just a way of dancing around the real issue: relationships.
I got an email last week from an old acquaintance (which I haven’t returned yet — sorry Jamie, I will). We’re connected via LinkedIn and she wrote to tell me what was going on with her life and to ask what was going on with mine. She said that she was trying to do a better job this year of connecting with her network. Good for her.
All of us should steal that idea and do the same. It’s not numbers of friends, followers or subscribers that are ultimately important, it’s relationships. That’s why it’s called social media, and that’s where its power lies.
This isn’t just a soft and fuzzy “well isn’t that nice” issue either. The strength of your relationships and the strength of trust can have a huge impact on your bottom line. Many sales people understand this instinctively — they’ve always operated on the basis of relationships, trust and communication. Marketers are trying to take old mass media ideas of brand and integrate them with social media concepts around trust, reputation and relationships. It’s still a work in progress.
Dave Navarro published an interesting case study last week looking at short sales letters vs. long sales letters. It’s worth reading. The bottom line there with Laura Roeder‘s webinar is that she has spent a long time building trust and relationships with her community. That includes pushing out content for them (she publishes an email newsletter and a blog), but it also includes lots of interaction (look at her Twitter stream). Interaction is the bedrock of relationships.
So, let’s bring this down to some actionable stuff. Ask yourself these questions. Based on your answers, you should know what to do next to strengthen your relationships with your community.
- Do you routinely say happy birthday to people? Facebook makes this easy.
- Do you congratulate people in your community when they get promoted, get a job, win an award or achieve something noteworthy?
- Look at your list of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections. Who haven’t you talked to in the last few months? What’s stopping you?
- Who do you need to meet for coffee or lunch or a drink?
- You just read something interesting. Who in your community could benefit? Instead of sharing it as a status update (maybe in addition to), have you just sent it to that one person via email? Do this for one or two people a day and watch your relationships tighten up.
- Are you being human? Are you sharing with your friends and colleagues what’s important in your life? Are you asking about and listening to what’s important in their lives? This might have nothing to do with what you or your friends actually get paid to do every day.
What else? How else can we all do a better job of connecting and reconnecting with people in our communities and networks? Please share your thoughts in the comments.