Every day, around 30 new people follow me on Twitter. Then around the exact same number of people usually unfollow me. They’re apparently upset that I haven’t blindly reciprocated their “friendship,” despite the fact that they’ve never even said “hi” or interacted with me. They’re so obsessed with numbers games… that they don’t seem to understand the most basic social networking principle, where you have to be sociable and personally interact with people before you win their trust and friendship.
Social Marketing = Constant, Conscious Personal Interaction
Social relationships evaporate quickly. Personal interaction is the “glue” that holds them together. image: imelda
Take a moment to think of the “people online you actually care about.” Usually, the important folks are those who have taken the time to personally interact with you or acknowledged you (recently). These are people you’re willing to help out and stand up for. When you’re under pressure or pressed for time, the people who haven’t interacted with you become second-class “nobodies” who are incredibly easy to ignore and forget. No matter how cool or famous they are.
Here are 6 tips for cultivating authentic, long-term, “sticky” personal connections – and maintaining them:
- Send a quick personal note every time you follow / fan / friend someone.
- Leave a quick comment on friends’ blogs every time you stop by.
- Retweet, link to & talk about what other people have to say.
- Respond to everyone who reaches out. Don’t drop the ball.
- Never pitch someone without getting to know them.
- Be grateful and explicitly thank people.
Don’t just blindly add people without interacting with them – and don’t dare send Auto DMs or cookie-cutter messages. A quick, personalized friend request note that says “We met last week at the Social Media Meetup, enjoyed discussing design with you. Let’s keep in touch?” or an @reply saying “Cindy, you always find the hilarious side of mundane situations. It’s a pleasure to follow you! ” or “Just checked out your Flickr photos. Amazing mountain shots!” is enough to make a strong, personal impression. Then most people will take a moment to check you out or take your request seriously.
If you’re already wasting two minutes to check out a blog post, why not go all the way and take another 30 seconds to leave a quick comment? This will transform you from an anonymous nobody to a friend and supporter, who is a valuable and unforgettable part of their online social community. This isn’t just altruism, it quickly builds up your own reputation & social karma card. (Tech tip: easyComment plugin for Firefox makes entering your name and e-mail address quick and painless.)
Don’t be totally self centered. Link out to what other people have to say about topics you’re interested in. Retweet content you feel is worth sharing or endorsing. Forgetting to do this is the online equivalent of going to a cocktail party and launching into an endless monologue about yourself.
The deeper you get into the social web, the more “requests” will start to show up in your inbox and in DMs and @replies. People are usually reaching out to ask for something, says Jemimah Owyang. Try to get back to everyone who sends you a heartfelt (non-copy-and-pasted) request… but don’t be afraid to say “no,” be very brief in your response, or propose payment if someone is asking you to embark on a non-trivial consulting project. If you accidentally ignore someone a couple of times, they’ll likely start to “forget about” you.
An essential, but widely overlooked marketing principle is to give before you try and get. At the very least, before you pitch someone with a proposal that will benefit you – you need to take a few minutes and get to know (about) the person you’re asking. It’s tacky and rude to request something of a blogger or power user without knowing their name and what they do. Don’t think of pitching / requests as a one-time hustle – think of it as building the recognition and trust from someone who can help you over the long-term. You never know when you’re gonna need their help again – so first impressions are huge.
When someone does something for you – like promotes your content or links to you – don’t forget to thank them! A little recognition and gratefulness creates a powerful reinforcement for more positive action – and it goes a long way towards making sure that person doesn’t forget you. (Big thanks for @mnphysicist and @MoneyEnergy for reminding me to add this supercritical, relationship-cementing tip.)
It’s A Jungle Out There. Be Human.
People are blitzed each week with thousands of messages online, a large percentage of them are bogus & unsavory ones. For every genuine person who wants to connect, there’s a dozen marketing hustlers on Twitter trying to blindly build up their numbers, or spammers dressed like hot chicks on Facebook… or wealthy Nigerian benefactors.
If you want to build a potent, responsive social network… the most important thing is to be social and show that you’re a real human. Communicate, comment, and show concern and care for people – and pace yourself to keep doing it. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to build real trust and long term social capital!
What are you thoughts on winning people’s trust online? How about keeping relationships from evaporating once you’ve established them?
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Brett Borders, the author of this article, is a professional copywriter who specializes in increasing website sales and signup rates. I'm available now to write for your website and optimize it for maximum sales and profits. Please contact me now for a free consultation.