Trying to build “real” relationships and connections with people you “meet” online can appear quite challenging at times. You want to connect with others - perhaps, that potential JV partner or a mentor who you’ve been following for quite some time. But, how do you go about doing it? How do you stand out from the others who are trying to do the same thing as you? Obviously, you don’t want to appear needy, pushy, lame, or spammy in your “relationship marketing” efforts. That said, what should one do?
First, let me say this: social networking is nothing more than an online representation of our offline worlds. A lot the things you would do offline to break the ice and network are the same activities we should be doing online as well. That said, here are 5 tips and ideas that will help you get the ball rolling.
1. Reference something that is recent and relevant
Let’s not beat around the bush. People like to hear about themselves. Referencing something that is recent and relevant to your intended contact is a phenomenal icebreaker. Has your “target” received any press (interviews, newspaper mentions, etc)? Did they write a popular blog post?
What about any other noteworthy achievements? All of these are great things to mention. Referencing them will help you to avoid those awkward “what do I talk about?” moments and will allow the conversation to progress naturally. Plus, it makes one helluva impression.
2. Offer your time, services, or support
One of the best ways to make someone stand up and take notice is to give of yourself. Find out what your intended contact is currently involved in. Perhaps, they’re looking for a custom blog theme… If you have web design skills, offer to help with some or all of the design. Maybe they’re considering starting a charity. If social entrepreneurship is one of your strong suits, ask if there’s anything you could do to help them get it off the ground. It’s all about the Law of Reciprocity!
3. Follow up after the initial contact
When your intended target accepts your friend request (decides to “follow” you, etc.), take the time to follow up by sending them a quick thank you note. But do NOT spam. This is not the time to pitch your ideas and pub your latest, greatest opportunity. The focus MUST be on building the relationship first. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like an ametuer spammer and a professional tool.
Now, once you leave the “thank you” message, take it a step further by standing out from the others who, too, left notes saying thanks. But how?
4. Follow up in a memorable way
These days, almost everyone is leaving some kind of “thank you” note in one form or another. Although others may not be doing it improperly (too much self promotion, spammy, etc.), yours can easily get lost in the mix. To avoid this, incorporate some unique follow up ideas and techniques by taking a brief survey of what others are doing; then, do something contrary to that.
For example, Facebook allows users to record a video directly into wall posts. Instead of sending a thank you message, consider recording one instead. You can also record greetings for birthdays and other holiday occasions. Remember, it’s about being unique and memorable.
5. Make contact on more than one site.
With the bevy of social networking sites available, you can bank on the fact that a lot of people will have more than one profile under their belt. Don’t restrict your efforts to one sole website. A lot of times, “social savvy” people will use one or two sites as their online “hub” while using their other profiles much less frequently. If you send a message to someone’s Myspace, it might take weeks for you to get a reply if he/she uses Facebook as their online hub.
That said, it’s a good idea to spread out your efforts. But, before you do this, exercise some restraint. You don’t want to appear as if your spamming — or worse — stalking the person you intend to connect with. If you’ve already sent that person a message, consider leaving a valuable comment on their blog instead of sending them another message on a different network. This idea is a great way to “keep your name in front of them” while not appearing pushy or overaggressive.
To make a personal, memorable connection in an online world:
1. Reference something that is recent and relevant to that person. Cite a newspaper or magazine article and mention some positive points about it.
2. Invoke the Law of Reciprocation by offering to do something for them. Offer your help or expertise in an area where you and/or your knowledge would bring value.
3. Always follow up after the initial contact, and…
4. Follow up in a memorable and unique way. Stand out from what others are doing. If everyone is sending text greetings, send audio instead. If everyone is sending audio greetings, record a video. Stand out!
5. Remember, there are tons of social networking sites out there. Not to mention, blogs, podcasts, and so on. There are plenty of places to connect. Spread your efforts and look for the unconventinonal ways to get your name in front of your intended contact.
That’s it from me. What are you doing to build meaningful and lasting connections in — what many call — an impersonal online world?
UPDATE: I want to give Larry Benet, who is appropriately known as “The Connector,” a special shout out to say thanks for stopping by the blog. Larry left some pretty kickass suggestions and tips for anyone who wants to take their online connecting efforts further. Here’s the direct link to Larry’s post below.
Also, check out Larry’s site and find out more about him. Mr. Benet has this connecting/relationship building thing down to a science. Visit his site now and find out how he met Larry King for the first time — and, in less than 90 seconds — had an invitation to sit down and eat breakfast with him.
P.S. Check out this interview Larry Benet did with my good friend, Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com. Trust me, that interview was one for the ages.