Without hesitation, I gave her a big smile and an exuberant hello. But just before I threw my arms open for a warm embrace, she smirked and turned away. Faster than my face flushed, I realized that I'd never actually met this person. At least I’d never met her in real life. The truth is, we follow each other on Instagram and LinkedIn and often exchange comments on our posts. Yet, we've never connected beyond a "like" and a reply.
In that moment I had a realization: No amount of “likes” can forge a true relationship. Social media has its benefits. but it doesn’t compare to the value of genuine connections. If you never elevate your followers to friends, you’re missing out on the richness a true relationship has to offer.
Here are some tips for fostering powerful relationships in a virtual world.
It’s happened to all of us: A stranger sends a LinkedIn connection request. She look interesting, so we accept. Five minutes later, there’s a message from her pitching her product or service.
For most of us, this is an instant turnoff. Not only will her offer be ignored, but she’s lost an opportunity to build rapport.
For business owners, rapport is essential to growth and survival, because businesses are built on relationships.
Thankfully, building rapport is easier than it seems. First, simply be yourself, with nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and nothing to lose. Take a genuine interest in another person and explore how you can best assist them. Learn about what they have going on in their life and business and understand what is most important to them.
In today’s hectic world, the greatest gift you can give someone is your time and uninterrupted attention. That experience is so rare that it will leave a lasting impression. And you’ll begin to build rapport. Remember that relationships grow over time. Consistency builds trust.
Invest in Others
Several years ago, I was working diligently to get my business off the ground. Despite my best efforts, tumbleweeds were blowing through my inbox. Until one day, I heard the new email “ding” on my phone. It was an introduction -- one of the most important kind.
A former colleague had connected me with someone in her network who could help propel my business forward. With this single email, she opened a door for me that led to several blockbuster opportunities.
I had previously made an introduction that landed her a new job opportunity.
In that full-circle moment, I realized the power of creating opportunities for others, and vowed to cultivate the habit going forward.
Review your connections list, and for each person ask yourself: How can I help this individual? Is there an introduction I can make? Can I forward an article of interest or a word of encouragement? Whatever it is, take the time to make an impact.
Use Social Media
Social media is a place to make an initial connection, keep in touch, and maintain a list of contacts. It’s not meant to build rapport. If there’s someone you’d like to build a relationship with, see if you have a mutual connection who can make an introduction. If that’s not an option, follow the individual on your favorite platform and engage with their content.
Eventually, reach out and ask for a virtual meetup. On that call, be more interested than interesting. Follow up by creating value for them and you’ll be on your way to building a lasting relationship.
Powerful relationships are created by real people in real life in real time. They require that you show up authentically and consistently invest in others. Be generous with your attention. Add so much value that people never forget the impact you made in their lives.