Today all networking is taking place online. Why else would we do a free webinar training so we can better connect with online business owners?! When someone is online, it’s much easier to meet and share with people who have common interests. It's also easier to reach more people through online communities and social media. However, it gets challenging meeting people online, and sometimes it takes working extra hard to build relationships online. Both customers and companies want to work with people they trust, and the good news is that being transparent helps build trust. In addition to being open, we discuss 8 ways to form relationships online that can result in feeling happy and making more money.
1. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable
To start building online relationships, Tiny Buddha recommends being vulnerable. It’s hard to strengthen a bond without being exposed, so it’s essential to take the plunge and be more open.
This is similar to acknowledging what you don’t know, but it encompasses more than that—it’s also about sharing what you actually think and feel.
Someone asked me recently what I do when I can’t answer the question, “How can I be inspiring today?” I told him it helps that I never ask myself that. I ask myself, “How can I be authentic today?”
If I’m feeling oversensitive, I write about dealing with criticism. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I write about dealing with stress. And right within those posts, I acknowledge my own struggles.
Not everyone has an outlet in which this type of radical honesty feels appropriate, but we can all get a little more open when it comes to sharing what’s really on our minds.
At the end of the day, we’re all just people, and it’s our nature to want to really connect with each other—not with personas and brands, but with other real people who can relate to the universal struggles we all face. If we want to experience that with other people, we have to be willing to show them how it’s done.
2. Build social proof
Forbes says that you should work on building social proof. Social proof essentially means creating an online reputation that makes you a person worth knowing. People will be more likely to put trust in someone if they create a favorable online profile.
You must convince people that you’re worth knowing. On the web, that means getting others to speak on your behalf. Even with the best intentions, it’s easy to come off as a little self-centered on the web because conversations aren’t as natural as they are in face-to-face situations. To temper your self-proclamations and build credibility through the words of others, focus on these elements:
Testimonials: Testimonials and recommendations go a long way to tell people you’re worth knowing. Get LinkedIn recommendations—at least two for your current role and one for each of your previous roles. Seek to be quoted in trade publications related to your area of expertise. And remember, the person providing the recommendation is as important as the recommendation itself. Benefit from brand association by including testimonials from leaders in your field.
Social actions: When you post content online, choose words that will make it visible to your ideal audience and encourage comments. Whether you post a blog to LinkedIn, a video to YouTube or a presentation to SlideShare, take the amount of time it took you to create your content and double that effort to boost visibility and engagement. The “stickier” your content, the more people will reach out to you to become a part of your brand community. And always thank and acknowledge others who respond to your content. That will help you form relationships.
3. Turn online relationships into real-life relationships
The fantastic aspect of building online relationships is that according to Fast Company, you can easily take these relationships offline and into real life! Don’t be afraid to meet someone alive in the flesh. Not only is meeting someone in the “real” world a great way to grow personally, but it can also offer many business benefits too.
Fortunately, it’s possible to turn online connections into real-life ones. The problem is that most of us are taking the wrong approach to these relationships, says Ferrazzi, who is also CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a research and consulting firm. We rely on serendipity to make things happen. Sometimes that works, but often it doesn’t.
Instead, look at your offline existence. Ask yourself what you’d like to do in life. What job would you like to find? What would you like to learn? Who would you like to marry? “‘Who are the people I need to know in order to achieve that?’” says Ferrazzi.
4. Make meaningful relationships
Just don’t form relationships just because it’s what you’re supposed to do. Entrepreneur reminds us to make meaningful relationships that bring value to your life and perhaps your online business as well.
I once bought a fly-fishing resort for one reason: to provide a place where I can make meaningful memories with others. I don’t expect you to buy a resort, but I urge you to create experiences that have the potential to lead to making memories with others. As we spend time with others outside of business, we create strong ties and lasting relationships.
5. Create your own story
As you begin to form relationships, you can do so by creating your own story. Shopify points out that as you create a story behind your brand and perhaps personally depending on your target audience, people will begin to trust in you more.
Whether it’s starting a blog, a YouTube channel, or a side business, doing things outside of your main job makes networking a lot easier. Not only does it make you more interesting as a person, and gives you more to talk about, but it also helps you make connections in the process as you try to grow something on your own.
Publishing, in particular, is an effective, low commitment way of making new connections—especially if you do it on platforms like LinkedIn or Medium that give you access to their built-in audiences. It helps you grow your personal brand too.
Think about what makes you interesting and different and craft it into an elevator pitch to keep in your back pocket for when you need to introduce yourself.
Everyone’s got a story that makes them unique, that they can tap into, but if you're stuck on where to start, here's a template that I strongly encourage you to adapt based on your own story, who you're talking to, and whether it's in person or online.
6. Take advantage of conferences and gatherings
Another way to build relationships, according to Inc., is by socializing with people at meetings and gatherings. Don’t be afraid to take your online connections offline too!
Many of us automatically switch into networking mode when we're at a conference or other business gathering, and there's nothing wrong with that.
I'd suggest, however, being a bit more intentional about it. Look at the list of attendees and make a note of anyone whom you'd like to connect with. Use LinkedIn to familiarize yourself with their background and experience. Or, use Google to learn more about their work, so you can ask meaningful questions once you meet them — instead of resorting to generic “small talk.” Ask any online connections whom you've been wanting to meet whether they'll be attending, and make plans to get together.
Making brand-new connections at a conference is wonderful, but remember to focus on the people you've already connected with — online, that is — as well.
7. Conduct email interviews
Orbit Media explains how conducting email “interviews” can promote learning about new people and their companies. It may also provide the opportunity for you to form relationships with the people you are interviewing.
This goes beyond just quoting them in your blog posts. In fact, working on a piece of content together may have been the goal of your entire outreach effort. Collaboration may be a final step in the networking process before you ask for something big.
Regardless, once you’ve work on something together, you’ll be better connected forever after. Here are the three main ways to collaborate on content using email interviews.
Invite them to contribute quotes
Get a special contributor quote from them and include it in an article
The Expert Round Up
Roundups are a ubiquitous format for content for a good reason: they’re interesting and they get shared a lot. Readers love them and they’re great networking.
Deep Dive Interview
Go deep into a topic by sending them a list of questions. Or send one question at a time and make the post more conversational.
These types of collaboration aren’t just good networking, they’re a type of ego bait that may lead to them sharing the post with their social followings. That can give you a little traffic boost.
8. Treat the web as an actual crowd
If you treat your online audience as a real crowd, Tiny Buddha says you can learn more about them. Learning more about them can help you better understand their wants and needs and how you can help them through your business online.
At last year’s Wisdom 2.0 Conference, one of the speakers commented that his father wanted more Twitter followers. He reminded his dad that in real life, 200 people would be a huge crowd—why did he feel the need to speak to thousands of people online? If that were real life, he’d likely feel overwhelmed and nervous with such a massive audience.
Sometimes it seems like a completely different experience to share ourselves behind the safety of a computer—as if there aren’t really that many people listening and our words somehow have a different impact than when we can actually hear their echo.
One thing I try to do when I connect with people online is visual them standing in front of me. If I tweet something on my personal account, I visualize that I’m actually saying it to more than 11,000 people. If I’m writing an email or commenting on someone’s blog, I imagine they’re sitting in a chair next to me, looking right into my eyes.
When I think about someone looking at me and me seeing them, suddenly it feels a lot easier to peel away pretense and speak directly from my heart. In visualizing the other person or people as flesh-and-blood human beings, it feels a lot more natural to strip away my ego and simply be me.
Join us during our next free webinar training and learn how forming relationships online can help you make more money and stay happy while working online!
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