If you’re an introvert like me, meeting new people can sometimes be a little intimidating. It’s always exciting to make new friends or meet new clients, but I tend to get a little nervous, too!
What if they don’t like me? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m wearing a dumb shirt?
These feelings transfer over to business relationship building on social media for a lot of us as well. Community management and brand building on social media is an awesome job, but it takes a lot of work and can sometimes be a little overwhelming—so many people to meet and talk to, so little time!
Through several years of working on growing customer relationships for brands via social media while also building my own personal network online, I’ve got a pretty good handle on this strategy. There are always new tactics and things to learn, but here are the main things that I keep in mind when fostering professional relationships in the online space:
The How: Fostering Business Relationships
Authenticity sounds very simple but can be deceivingly difficult. If speaking as yourself, be you! If speaking on behalf of an organization, take time to create a unified brand voice and personality. No one wants to feel like they are interacting with a robot, especially not customers who are potentially (or already) investing time and/or money in your company.
Be quirky, funny, silly, and have fun if it feels right. And if you’re dealing with potential customer issues or problems, take your role as the voice of your organization seriously and treat each encounter with respect.
The same general principle applies to the content you post on your own profiles and the way you interact with your network. I try to be personable and post content that I feel is important for my industry but also shows what I’m interested in—books, politics, health/wellness, my favorite TV shows, and more.
For example, when I moved to my new town (Champaign-Urbana, IL), I used the hashtag #chambana to find people on Twitter with similar interests. I love to jump in on Twitter chats or use hashtags to meet new people.
Social media can be noisy and cluttered—there is so much information out there for you to absorb. So where to focus your energy? I think it’s most important to listen to your customers, your competitors, your peers, and then if possible, spend some time getting up to speed on current events in your industry.
Yes, I know that’s a lot…but all of these pieces help you create an awesome strategy for great engagement and relationship building with your network. Consider this:
According to J.D. Power & Associates, 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing. That’s a HUGE number! You need to be monitoring what your customers are saying and what kind of content/information they want from you to build the kind of nurturing relationships that will lead to a loyal audience.
After you’ve made sure your customers are well taken care of, it’s a good idea to check in on your competitors. As stated by Buffer, competitive benchmarking means to “find inspiring, influential accounts in your field and seek to reach their level.” I think this is a great explanation and goal—you want to find others who are engaging well on social and evaluate if it makes sense for your brand to follow their lead. Don’t copy directly, but do allow yourself to raise the bar based on what you see around you.
Personally, I like to connect with peers who I admire and chat them up on social media whenever possible. I’ve found that sending a quick note on Twitter goes a long way to making connections that last and can lead to virtual friendships and business opportunities.
Your followers are the backbone of any social media strategy, and whether they are customers, influencers, friends, or family, it’s important to remember to thank them for their support. Providing small tokens of gratitude via social media can make a major impact (a little thank you goes a long way!) while bigger actions can inspire meaningful growth as well.
Discounts, loyalty programs, special shout-outs…there are so many different ways to thank your audience. The most vital part of this strategy is just to remember to DO IT. Be grateful, be thankful—your audience will reward you for it with loyalty and deeper relationships.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m an introvert (an INFJ, to be exact), so working in social media fits me VERY well; however, I still find myself a little nervous to reach out to people I admire or to make sure I’m saying just the right thing to a customer for my clients.
This might be the most important piece of advice I can offer you:
Be Brave! Be Bold! Use common sense (you don’t want to be part of a social media scandal), but let your personality shine through and engage authentically with GUSTO.
I’ve truly had some amazing experiences and met some really awesome people by just reaching out and saying ‘hi’ on social media. The same goes for your brand or organization; reach out to influencers or your consumers and let them know you think they are great. I (almost) guarantee they will return the favor.
The (Virtual) Where: Finding Your Network
Now that you know HOW to build better relationships online, I wanted to give you just a few of my favorite places to actually do the relationship building.
Twitter has always been my favorite platform for interacting with peers, influencers, and brands. I see Twitter as a great place for me to grow my personal network, while Facebook has a lot of great value for nurturing brand relationships.
Also, I am currently loving Facebook groups. I participate in several (a few run by brands and a few that are more community focused), and I find a lot of value in them. Group members tend to communicate and connect with and without moderator support, which makes for great conversation. It also feels kind of special to be part of something that might be “private” or for a particular group of people only (i.e. owners of a type of technology or members of a volunteer group).
Do some experimenting and find the platform that helps you network easily and build your strongest relationships. There’s a place for everyone!
What are some of your favorite ways to nurture professional relationships online? Do you find it useful to do so on behalf of your own personal “brand,” or do you only manage business profiles? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below or reach out to us via social media!