by Kate Vandeveld
Social media is an incredibly impactful tool, but it can be alarmingly (and ironically) anti-social if it takes the place of developing real-life connections. To ensure you’re using social media to establish meaningful connections (that even translate to real life!), execute in a thoughtful manner.
Here are some of our tips for connecting and building relationships on social media
Pay Attention & Stay Active
If you want to use social media to find and connect with others in your field, you have to pay attention and stay active. First, follow the individuals and organizations in your space that you’re already connected to or know about. Then, find other people who are talking about your interests by searching for and staying on top of hashtags that those in your space are using. Develop Twitter lists for different types of individuals and organizations that you want to engage with, and check those lists daily. Look for groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that are relevant to your interests, and engage with others in them by posting and responding. When you see something worth sharing, re-tweet it with a comment (great new Twitter feature, in case you don’t know about it yet!).
If you’re paying attention and staying active on social media, other users will begin to follow you, and share and respond to your posts. Take advantage of the opportunity to connect! Thank new followers and those who share your posts. When someone sends you a direct message or mentions your work, respond to them. Try to be thoughtful with your responses, rather than sending blanket messages that may feel like spam. Responding to those who engage with you in a genuine way will go a long way in building meaningful connections.
Actively Reach Out
While you could just passively interact on social media (waiting for others to reach out to you and responding accordingly), you will be much more effective if you actively reach out to people as well. Before you begin active outreach, make sure your profile is up to par: check out your photos to make sure they’re crisp and representative of you, and take a look at your descriptions to make sure they are accurate and include a link to your website or work. Then, look for thought leaders in your space, as well as less influential individuals who are sharing valuable information. When you see that someone has shared something of interest, respond with a question. If you really want to connect, send a direct message, but be thoughtful about it. Make sure your message is genuine and informative. Who knows? One little tweet or Facebook comment could lead to a strong rapport (our founder has met several clients and team members via Twitter!).
So, you’ve just gone to an event where you made some interesting connections, or met someone in passing with whom you share a common interest. You may not be comfortable sending a formal follow-up email or perhaps you don’t have their information, but you do want to keep the connection alive and/or learn more about their work. Social media is the perfect medium for this kind of follow-up. First, follow or connect with these individuals, and then determine the best way to reach out. Need ideas? Send them a direct message asking for a follow-up meeting. Thank them for a specific bit of insight or just for taking the time to talk. Share something that they’ve posted as a show of support. No matter how you go about it, following up on social media is a great way to sustain what would have otherwise been a fleeting connection.
Join Twitter Storms & Chats
When you’re passionate about a specific topic or issue, you generally want to discuss it with others who share that passion. If you’re having a hard time finding the right audience in real life, turn to Twitter. Beyond using hashtags to find those with common interests, you can also seek out Twitter Storms and Twitter Chats. These are organized Twitter conversations, spanning a short time period and around a specific topic, in which all Twitter users who are interested in the topic are invited to participate. You can use these conversations to gain information, to engage and connect with others who share your passions, and to pose questions that you’d like to discuss openly. Afterwards, use it as an opportunity to take the conversation offline.
Take the Conversation Offline
Social media conversations don’t have to begin and end entirely online. Once you’ve developed a rapport with an individual or organization, you can decide whether or not it’s appropriate to take the conversation offline and connect in person. In fact, many individuals have even used social media to land jobs!
It takes some time and effort to establish meaningful connections on social media, but it can be incredibly worthwhile. Do you have any additional tips, or a story about a time when you developed a relationship on social media that extended to real life? Share with us! Here’s how: