What is the value of your likes, follows, and friends on social networks? Is more necessarily merrier?
Thanks to a recent episode on Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Marketing podcast, I was intrigued with the notion of generating a Return On Relationship from Ted Rubin, an experienced social media marketing expert.
According to Rubin, relationships is the new social currency. Nobody buys from somebody they don’t like. Often, purchase decisions are made from the heart rather than the head.
In a world flooded with billions of blog posts, Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter accounts, the best way for us to differentiate ourselves is to build strong, authentic relationships with our communities.
There were many great ideas being shared by Ted. I strongly encourage you to listen to the podcast for yourself. Let us look at nine of the different ways you can build a solid community by investing in relationships.
#1 Deepen fan engagement
It is isn’t the sheer numbers of fans or followers which count. Rather, it is the degree of engagement which your fans have with you that count.
To up your fan-love, dedicate time and effort to building relationships with your listeners, followers and fans. This means interacting with them and showing concern for their welfare.
#2 Be reactive and responsive
Being reactive and responsive is another vital step in sustaining social relationships.
When fans leave a comment or posts on your Facebook Timeline, do spend some time responding. Similarly, if a Twitter follower tweets about a topic related to your business, it pays to respond to them directly if possible.
In the online world, you cannot afford to ignore your fans and followers. Address their needs as soon as possible. By doing so, you would build massive amounts of goodwill.
#3 Be proactive in relationship building
Beyond being reactive, you also need to be proactive when you cultivate online relationships.
This means that you need to get out of your Internet ivory towers. Go and find out who your fans and followers are by clicking on to their social media accounts.
Find out where they come from, what they’re interested in, what they do at work, what groups they join, and what their family situations are. If possible, leave a friendly comment on their wall, or an @reply to let them know that you were here.
#4 Personalise your interactions
Once you know who your fans are, you need to personalise your interactions with them.
This may include visiting their Facebook profile pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs to leave a message, or responding to their comments in a directly relevant way.
For example, if you know that a fan is a teacher, it would certainly warm his heart if you shared how your kid enjoyed school so much because he had great teachers.
#5 Reveal some personal details
Go ahead, reveal some personal details about yourself. Share a little about your family life (Ted was upfront in revealing that he was a divorced father of a daughter), what your hobbies are, as well as the country or city where you live.
Naturally, you need to forgo some privacy. However, the returns in building deeper relationships are likely to be worth the disclosure.
Here, I suppose some common-sense may be useful. For example, I’d avoid mentioning my home address or reveal the license plate number of my car.
#6 Network with other industry practitioners
If you frequently speak at conferences, spend time networking with other speakers. While this may mean foregoing attending some of the sessions, it could be rewarding in terms of the relationships strengthened and gained. In any case, you probably already know most of the theoretical stuff anyway!
#7 Use a person’s name
Learn this age-old secret and address your fans by name if possible.
#8 Get your employees into the act
Get your brand advocates into the act. According to Ted (and myself), the best advocates you can have for your business are your employees.
While this may not be possible in all organisations, you should endeavour to get as many of them to be your relationship marketers as possible. The same principles would then apply – show an active interest in your employees, encourage them to express themselves, and connect with them on a personal level.
#9 Organise face to face gatherings
Finally, the best way to build relationships is to organise face to face gatherings.
Nothing beats seeing your fans in real life (IRL) and to “press the flesh” with a handshake. If you have revealed enough about yourself and done sufficient homework on your fans, you would have lots of stuff to talk about despite meeting each other for the first time.
Beyond the above, what else can we do to strengthen the quality of our engagements with fans, followers and friends on social networks? I’d love to hear your thoughts!