Building relationships in social media isn’t easy. It isn’t second nature, and it takes a ton of time. But if done right, solid social media relationships can be very helpful in developing and maintaining strong “real-life” relationships.
There’s even data to prove it. A study conducted by The Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed that 91% of people use social media to stay in touch with close friends,86% of people use it to connect with an old friend they have lost touch with, and 49% of people use it to connect with people who have similar hobbies or interests.
But actually transitioning a relationship with roots in social media into a real-life relationship can be hard. You can’t ask for a phone call if you’ve only exchanged one tweet with a random follower of yours — no matter how badly you want to connect with them. You want to get to a point where you have a mutually beneficial, real-life relationship with someone. But how can you transition from a tweet to a phone call with someone you’ve just met? Let’s look at an example to see how this can work.
How One Social Media Relationship Blossomed Into a Real-Life One
Want to see how this scenario could realistically unfold? Here’s a real example. Corey Eridon of HubSpot and John Bonini of IMPACT Branding & Design started talking to each other because John is a HubSpot customer. John consistently shared Corey’s blog posts and commented on what he found valuable, which got Corey’s attention. Eventually, he wanted a quote about content creation for an ebook he was writing and reached out to her for help. After the ebook was published, he tweeted at her to let her know and thank her for her help.
Then Corey took it one step further when she wanted a quote for a blog post, taking their communication from social media over to email. Later, John wanted recommendations for hiring freelance writers and asked Corey. She called him, moving the relationship from email to phone. Because John and Corey had set a solid framework for their relationship around providing value to each other through social media, they were able to develop a deeper, real-life relationship offline.
This is just one example — in every scenario, there are different things you need to consider when laying the groundwork in social media for a successful “real-life” relationship. To help you transition your social media relationships into real-life ones, here are six real scenarios you may encounter, along with solutions for strengthening these relationships. If you follow these tips, you’ll be emailing privately in no time!
6 Scenarios for Using Social Media to Build Real-Life Relationships
Scenario #1: Connecting with someone you have never interacted with before.
You may already have a list of people you would really like to connect with — whether it be for professional purposes or just because you love their social media posts. While you may admire them from afar, it’s a whole different ball game when you have a real relationship with them. So how do you break the ice with someone you don’t know yet — but want to?
Tip: Do your research first, then slowly begin developing a relationship with them.
First, pick out the people you want to make a connection with. Follow them a little bit more closely in social media than you may have done in the past. See what their interests are — what are they posting, who are they interacting with, and how often are they posting? Are they asking questions? Are they posting interesting articles, or are they just responding to other people?
After you’ve done some research, it’s time to make your move. Answer a question they’re asking their followers, even if it means doing some research first. Ask them a question, or give them your thoughts on something they have posted. By taking these baby steps, you’ll slowly but effectively build rapport with them. Before you know it, they’ll be commenting on your posts or responding to your own questions — and then you’ll eventually even feel comfortable exchanging emails with them.
Scenario #2: Maintaining relationships with people you frequently tweet with.
As marketers, we often use our networks when working on various projects. You could be looking for a co-marketing partner, a potential hire to fill a position at your company, or a speaker at an event. Using the network you have already built in social media can come in handy at a time like that.
Tip: Monitor your connections’ job responsibilities and interests, and continue to engage in low-key conversations with them.
An important way to maintain these relationships is to stay up to date on your followers’ jobs and interests. You may be thinking, “But I follow thousands of people! How am I supposed to know what everyone is doing?” You don’t have to keep tabs on all of your followers — just the subset you have already developed relationships with. There are many social media tools to help you keep track of specific groups of people. Keeping tabs on your network’s jobs, connections, and interests is crucial to forming those deeper “real-life” relationships down the road.
But it’s not enough just to know what your connections are up to — you need to continue to chat with them in social media. Combine your knowledge of their current activities with the techniques in Scenario #1 to strengthen your relationship — comment on their blog posts or respond to their tweets, for example. Although you have a relationship with this person already, you haven’t taken the next level yet — so continue to nurture it by monitoring what they’re talking about and strategically interacting with them.
Scenario #3: Establishing a relationship with a stranger you’re already connected with.
Ever accepted LinkedIn requests from people you don’t know, then forget about them completely? They become one of your hundreds of LinkedIn connections and you forget you even connected with them … until months later when you realize you want to get to know them again. Maybe you have a co-marketing opportunity or a job opening that they might be interested in, but you didn’t set the relationship groundwork when you initially connected with them. These long-ignored connections can be extremely valuable connections — if you take the right steps to nurture them.
Tip: Don’t come off too strong by interacting with them publicly before sending them a message.
First, do a little creeping. Like in Scenario #1, you want to figure out more about them. What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies and interests? Once you’ve found out a little more about them, you need to get on their radar. Here, being forward won’t be effective — don’t post publicly that they should come in for an interview, enroll them in your company newsletter, or ask for a LinkedIn introduction from someone who works with them.
Instead, strike up a conversation with them in a public platform that isn’t a hard sell for what you want from them. Consider joining the groups they are active in and commenting on some of the things they are discussing first. After you both are familiar with each other, message them privately to take the conversation to the next level — you need to establish a level of familiarity first so you don’t come on too strong.
Scenario #4: Reconnecting with an old connection you haven’t talked to in years.
It’s hard to stay in touch with everyone in your network. You may go through phases when you talk a lot with someone, but then have months of no communication. So how do you reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with?
Tip: Connect with them before you need a favor.
The number one rule of reconnecting with old connections is to reconnect with them before you need the favor. Be conscious of the people you may have fallen out of touch with — they may not feel comfortable jumping back into a deep relationship right off the bat. To start, try to comment on what they’re saying or answering their questions in social media like you would in any other relationship scenario. The biggest difference in this scenario is that you may not need as much research or rebuilding time because you already know their interests and have a history with them.
The most important thing to remember in this scenario is to not fear reconnecting with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t be shy. That’s the beauty of social media — you can easily reconnect with old friends and colleagues even if you haven’t talked in years. In fact, this scenario could be the easiest of all to form a solid real-life relationship with, since you already had one with them before.
Scenario #5: Asking favors from acquaintances.
Let’s say a social media acquaintance, someone you occasionally talk with, just landed a job at the company you’ve been trying to start co-marketing campaigns with for months. Finally, a way you can make this partnership happen! But how do you start that conversation without making them feel like you’re using them? After all, you don’t talk that much!
Tip: Frame the conversation around what you can do for them — not what they can do for you.
Take a look at the other company’s presence in social media. Take a look at your connection’s posts in social media. What are they looking to do? What could they benefit from doing? And most importantly, how can you help them achieve their goals?
Once you answer those (not so simple) questions, you can start the conversation about how you can mutually help each other — not just how you can get them to do your favor. By approaching the situation from their point of view, they’ll be much more inclined to respond. Most of the time, it’s easy to find a mutually beneficial scenario — whether it be as simple as promoting each other’s content or as complicated as co-hosting a webinar.
Scenario #6: Getting the attention of influencers.
Social media may be one of the only places you have the opportunity to talk to people with more expertise and experience. You have the ability to send messages to industry influencers, company founders, and even celebrities … but how do you actually go about it? How can you be noticed among your influencers’ gazillion other followers?
Tip: Monitor their activity and get to know them on a personal level.
Simply sending tweets or other posts to people with large followings will not get their attention. They may receive hundreds — if not thousands — of posts every day, so you need to find a way to cut through the clutter. Pay attention to what topics they are influential in and what they are saying about those topics. If you read a relevant article they may be interested in, send it to them. If you see them quoted in an article, read the article and comment on it — maybe even congratulate them for a great write up. If you believe in something they speak about, adopt it yourself and tell them about the outcome. Get to know them and their presence on a more personal note, and you may be able to get their attention. Most importantly, figure out ways you can help them — not just ways they can help you.
Ultimately, developing relationships in social media can be tricky. But if done right, you can turn these social media relationships into valuable real-life relationships.