We need to exercise some caution it comes to our online connections. You might have hundreds (or thousands) of LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers, but none of it guarantees beneficial relationships. Connecting with others online is quick and easy, and as they add up, it can look really impressive. However, we can’t just use the number of online connections we have to gauge how connected we actually are. If we want to maximize our online connections and build real relationships, we need to develop and maintain them — just like we do with our offline connections. Whether your goal is to expand your reach, grow your professional network, strengthen your brand, or meet more prospects, you can’t overlook the potential of a thriving online community. Here are a few ideas to maximize your efforts and strengthen your online connections:
Get to Know Them
All of the online platforms I mentioned above offer a private messenger option. This is an easy and effective way to have more detailed, personal conversations with your connections — and actually get to know them. If you’re using Facebook for business, you need to make sure the messaging option is enabled. It’s also important that you respond promptly to any messages you receive. If your goal is an actual conversation, you’re going to have to be the one to initiate it. If the connection is someone you know, engaging them will be much easier. Utilizing the instant-messaging option on these sites works better for natural conversation than a back-and-forth email exchange. It will also allow you stay connected even when you’re not meeting in-person.
Let your connections see that you’re active and maintain a consistent presence (I’ve written previously on strengthening your online presence here). When you post regularly, you build a presence that keeps you on everyone’s radar. You’re also letting your network get a sense of who you are and continue to learn more about you, even if you’re not engaging with them one-on-one. Staying present helps your connections see that you’re engaged, passionate about what you do, and an expert in your field.
It’s Not All About You
Think about what your connections need, too. If you have contacts who share content, show them that you appreciate their output by ‘liking’ it or leaving a comment. This is how we build an active online community. It also works to motivate others to reciprocate.
Create a Community
With so much of our relationship-building happening online these days, we want to make sure we create an environment that facilitates that growth. Ask questions, offer your thoughts, request additional information — be proactive in building the network you want to see. We want to stimulate discussion and help others get involved. The goal should be to create an online space where people feel welcome and want to engage.
There’s boundless opportunity with our online networks, but we need to know how to maximize our connections. By implementing some intentional strategies, we can use these online platforms to build real, meaningful relationships.
If you’d like to talk more about getting the most from your online network, or if there’s another matter I can be of assistance with, please reach out. I’m always happy to block off some time to connect.
VP – Retail Market Leader