5 Tips for Creating Better Social (Media) Connections in the New Year
Being from the South, one of the biggest New Year’s traditions we have is eating black-eyed peas. It’s supposed to bring luck and fortune in the year ahead. Growing up, the first bowl was served at midnight. We then continued sharing steaming, hot bowls of peas all day long with friends and family. It’s a tradition that continues, today. While the black-eyed peas were said to be the source of the luck, the real joy and benefits came from the time spent with those around us – welcoming in the New Year with those who meant the most to us.
With 2014 now upon us, it has occurred to me that social media is a bit like that bowl of black-eyed peas…it serves as a connection to friends and acquaintances – new and old, far and near. In 2013, I had the pleasure of writing a new book, The Art of Social Selling. It was written to help show how businesses can use social media to reach out and gain new customers. Spoiler alert: at the heart of the book is the message that social media is about building relationships – meaningful relationships. Whether you want to reach new customers and influencers, or you simply want to reach out to connect and learn, social media – just like those New Year’s peas – is a wonderful conduit for establishing, reinforcing and celebrating connections with people. But to do it right, you want to turn those social media connections into real, meaningful relationships.
Here are five tips to help get you started in building better connections through social media in 2014:
* Send personalized messages when connecting: Whether you already know the person or not, offer a personal message when making that initial connection in social media. It can be as simple as saying “Thanks” for connecting, or a little more involved offering a reason for why you want to connect. In LinkedIn, it’s simple to send a brief message (along with your invitation to connect); but you can just as easily send a similar public message when connecting through Twitter, Google+ or Facebook. If you are responding to a request to connect, you should still offer some personal message – even if one was not sent to you. This personalized approach is a great way to start to get to know someone and begin turning that follower or fan into a meaningful connection.
* Reach out on a regular basis: As with your friends and associates offline, the connection becomes more valuable and meaningful over time and with frequency of contact. The same principle applies with online relationships. Communicate with your social media contact fairly often – share information, ask what’s new, or just tag them in a post or a tweet to let them know they’re still on your radar.
* Be helpful, be interesting, be consistent: It’s not only the frequency of contact that matters, it’s the quality that makes a difference, too. Try to share things that will be of interest to others. That means, don’t just talk about yourself or your business in all those tweets and posts. Whether it’s posting interesting stats or links to helpful articles, or commenting on a topical issue. Give your connections a reason to not only continue following you but to strike up an online conversation with you.
* Mix business and pleasure: Simply put – don’t be boring. Sometimes, perhaps because we are communicating from behind a keyboard or mobile device, it’s easy for our online personality to come across as being robotic or one dimensional. Especially when connecting for business reasons, it’s all too tempting to take an approach that is all business. Instead, try to lighten up a little and let your personality show. That doesn’t mean you should stop being professional, but it does mean sharing a mixture of content types in between those business-oriented posts and tweets.
* Look for opportunities to connect offline: There are often offline events, such as trade shows, conferences, and local networking events where you can find many of your connections made through social media. Yet, we often draw a virtual line between our online connections and our “real world” connections. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your social media connections in real life (IRL). If you’re headed to a conference, for example, send a tweet or a message to your online connections asking if they plan to attend the same conference. If so, make a point to meet up and say hello. Again, it’s simply a way to put a face to a name, as the saying goes, and hopefully take a step toward a more meaningful relationship with those connections you’ve made online.
You may think this all sounds like a lot of time and trouble to go through for some people you met through social media. As with your offline connections, however, it takes effort to build both business and personal relationships that are the most meaningful to you. And with any luck, you may end up with the type of connection that leads to sharing in a bowl or two of black-eyed peas!