This is the third post in a three-part series about building online and offline relationships. In Part One we discussed how blogging can strengthen your credibility with colleagues in your local community.
In Part Two, I shared my story of building my local network by starting online and then continuing those relationships in person.
Now, let’s look at how to transform your network of clients, prospective clients, and referral sources into an online community that reads, shares and benefits from your content.
Step 1: Research
When you’ve met someone you want to stay connected with, see if they have accounts on the social media sites where you’re active. There are several ways to do this:
- Ask the person directly
- Type “[Name] Twitter” into a search engine, and repeat for the various sites
- Visit the person’s website and look for social media icons – if they’re not front and center on the Home page, check the Contact or About page (that’s where Chris Brogan recommended I put mine)
- Log into the social media sites and use their search function
Step 2: Make the connection
On Twitter, this means following the person. On LinkedIn, it means sending a personalized invitation. On LinkedIn and Facebook, it means finding and following/liking the person’s company page. On Google+, it means adding the person and/or their company to your circles.
You can also see which LinkedIn and Facebook groups and Google+ communities your connections have joined, and consider joining them yourself. This can provide a smaller, more focused environment to continue your interactions.
Step 3: Watch and respond
Keep an eye out for updates from the people you want to build or deepen relationships with, then respond with a Facebook/LinkedIn Like, Share or comment, or on Twitter post a reply or RT (don’t forget to add a comment before you RT). You can also mark someone’s tweet as a favorite, which will show up on their Connections page.
To make sure you don’t miss content from your important contacts, set up ways to track them or quickly scan for their new updates. Hootsuite’s list streams help you watch people on Twitter, while “interest lists” help you follow company pages on Facebook. You can categorize contacts on LinkedIn via tags (this will get easier with LinkedIn Contacts), or on Google+ via circles.
Step 4: Be helpful
As you’re browsing the web, you may come across something that you know would be helpful or interesting to a particular contact. Send it along! Sure you could send it privately via email or LinkedIn (see below), but why not send it publicly in case others in your network find the content useful. It also helps you promote your colleague, since their profile will now be visible to all of your contacts.
To get the person’s attention, add their profile name to your message. On Twitter, that’s a specific phrase with no spaces, e.g., @lindadessau. For a LinkedIn contact/company or a Facebook company, you can type the @ sign and then start typing the name (for Facebook personal contacts, just start typing the name). Once the name you want appears, click on it to add it to your message and notify your contact.
To share a link privately with one or more of your LinkedIn contacts, download the sharing bookmarklet from the Tools page. This is similar to the Hootlet from Hootsuite, but it has extended functionality for your LinkedIn account.
Click on Tools from the very bottom of any page on LinkedIn (Hint: Get there from your Groups page, since if you try to scroll to the bottom of your Home screen it will keep refreshing to show you more content and the bottom navigation will disappear). The sharing bookmarklet is on the right-hand side of the page (see photo below).
Once you’ve downloaded the tool, it will appear in your web browser (see photo below) and you can click on it when you want to share a blog post or webpage that you’re reading. Once you do, you’ll see options to add your comment, share an update, post as a group discussion, and/or share with specific individuals (just start typing the name(s).
Step 5: Post great content
When you’ve written your own new blog post, share it with your social networks. Whether they’re potential customers, referrals sources, or colleagues, you’ll be demonstrating your expertise and reminding them of how you can help.
Ideally, you’ll be blogging on a regular basis so your credibility is reinforced and you’ll be the first one people think of in your particular industry.
Step 6: Bring your online conversation offline
Though it can sometimes feel awkward to continue an online conversation when you’re standing face-to-face, it just takes one comment to get the ball rolling, e.g., “I saw your post about x, y or z,” or, “How did you enjoy that event you tweeted about?”
Whether you’re an introvert who prefers to think before you type, or an extrovert who loves the energy in a room full of people, you can combine online and offline networking strategies to build and deepen more meaningful connections.
Read Part One of this series, “How Business Blogging Can Build Your Credibility Offline”
Read Part Two of this series, “Don’t I Know You From Twitter? Taking Your Online Relationships Offline”