In a world of web-celebs and follower counts, what people want most is real connections.
We are living in an amazing age where the walls and distance that separate us from each other have been overcome by the power of social media. You can celebrate your accomplishments with thousands of followers with a simple tweet, or join a conversation with thought leaders in your industry on Facebook and Blab. Swarm and Yelp match your offline activities with your online stream, and Periscope can let everyone experience events with you live. But with this constant self-broadcasting and mass-media micro-publishing coming at us from all angles, and most of it from behind a computer screen or mobile device, has the art of making real, lasting connections a lost one? How do you go from being a follower to a friend? A peer to a colleague?
Traditionally we meet people one or two at a time, in a social or business setting. As we are introduced, key details are shared, and often connected with the situation itself. A dinner party with fellow publishers connects that field to that new name and face. Cocktails with the girls at a local karaoke bar reminds you of a new friends’ interests. A seminar on small business marketing solidifies what business a person is in. Your mind has the time to absorb these details, and play connect-the-dots in a real world sensory-rich environment. In social media, these details are presented in a flat matter-of-fact way through profile bios and the occasional link. After a few hundred and sometimes thousand online introductions, they all become a blur. It gets to the point that you can walk right past your favorite online contacts and not even know it!
First, you have to overcome the blur of avatars and screen names. Sure, it’s flattering to only share professional pictures of yourself, but is that REALLY how you look during a concert on a Friday night? Or at a Tuesday lunch with a thousand tasks on your mind? Choose an image for your profile that accurately represents you in real life and stick with it. Keep that image consistent across all of your social profiles. Share the pro shots, funny stuff, and what-not through Instagram, twitpics, photo albums and such, but keep that main profile picture authentic.
Make it Count:
All these hours of online communication should count for something, and it’s only going to if you convert these interactions into real connections! Do your best to connect each online contact with a business, place, or event. It may sound stalker-like, but keep notes if you have to! When a contact posts a useful article, major life event, or special occasion, add it to that contact card. Even something as simple as “tells great jokes” can spark that connection! Take advantage of the Lists features now available on most social media platforms or contact management services like Nimble to help as well.
Limit your range:
Get over the popularity contest and set yourself some standards. If you’re going to follow, fan or friend someone online, then you should have a reason beyond upping your headcount. Some people only add contacts they’ve met in person. Others only add people within their work industry or family or social circle. Whatever your preference is, it’s better to have standards!
Either attend or arrange offline meetings as often as you are able to. Be ready to play host/hostess and introduce people. Start with small coffee meetings or lunch and grow into bigger gatherings. At those meetings, give the other person the floor and ask open-ended questions so they are invited to share their life with you. At the end of the day, no trick in the book or in this article can ever compete with a good old-fashioned handshake!
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