In today's world of social networks and digital connectivity, the lines are frequently blurred between personal networks and deeper relationships and how we handle them. A few years into the social media revolution, we connect with our social networks in person and with our in-person relationships on Facebook.
Which begs the question: Are all these interactions bearing the fruit of genuine relationships? Are these passing interactions something you can even consider significant?
Related: Nurture Your Most Important Customer Relationships with CRM software
As a small business, answers to these questions will be critical to maintaining the most important business relationships you have.
Great business relationships can bring other networking opportunities which may lead to more sales. Perhaps a relationship building 101 is in order. Read on.
The Building Blocks of Any Relationship
Whether you're networking or building long-lasting relationships, the core of every ongoing interaction has four basic requirements: presence, engagement, adding value, consistency.
- Presence -- As with any conversation, we must be present to engage in it. If customers or business partners are on Twitter, start following them and putting them into lists. If they're at your city's Chamber of Commerce meetings, dry clean that suit and hoof it on over. As Woody Allen is wont to say, "Eighty percent of success is showing up."
- Engagement -- Nobody likes someone who either only talks about themselves, their company or contributes nothing to the conversation. A good guideline in social media is 70/20/10: 70% of the words out of your mouth should be informational or helpful in some form or other; 20% should be engaging directly with someone, and 10% can be promotional.
- Adding Value -- Communication, no matter its form, is meant to add value: to entertain, to inform, to sell, etc. If you're simply standing behind a megaphone, pushing your product, people will tune you out pretty quick. Find a unique way to add value and build from there.
- Consistency -- Consistent engagement shows that you care, that you want to help, and that you're not a flake.
Related: Making the Most of Networking Events
But these principles span both the networking and relationship-building stratum. Have networking and interpersonal relationships changed all that much thanks to the introduction of social platforms?
No. What seems to have gotten lost is that interactions can be cursory and yet still have value.
The Differentiator: Level of Depth
Relationships through social networks, if you ever want to benefit from them, must be nurtured. In person relationships must also be nurtured; but the key difference between a social and live relationship is the level of depth. Social tends to be shallow. We don't really know much about the people in our network, but we know enough to determine whether we want someone to be a part of it.
Once we get to a deeper level and start building relationships, it becomes less about the mutual benefit and more about likability. This is what takes us to a deeper level of connection that we can safely dub the "relationship."
- Regardless of whether you're building a network or forging a relationship, the most important thing to remember is this: be authentic to you and your business brand! Simply being true to who you are, consistently, will resonate among your interactions and will help you establish a brand.
Social media or not, the principles of communication will always apply. If you hope to build meaningful relationships with your business partners and customers, you need to remember the basics of networking and relationship building.
Bio: Jeff Hirz is a writer, freelancer and social media and content marketer. He contributed this article on behalf of Corporate Culture Pros.