Marketing Bootcamp

There Is Nothing Virtual About Building Relationships on Social Media

There Is Nothing Virtual About Building Relationships on Social Media
Image credit: Yeamake /

I remember saying that if I could ever figure out how a person could be in two places at once I’d retire a billionaire.

And then, I figured it out.

Because being in two places or more simultaneously is exactly what social media allows us to appear to do. With a nearly endless supply of apps designed to cross-post anything we can enter into a digital device, you’d think the impossible had finally been achieved.

Certainly a lot of innovative people have ensured a comfortable retirement by making that illusion easy to create. But what is it costing entrepreneurs who fall prey to it?

Back when I was lamenting the impossibility of being in two locations at the same moment I was working with service professionals, primarily doctors. We all know what happens when a doctor gets scheduled to be in two places at once; we have to clear our schedules because we’ll be spending most of the day in their clinic. So part of my consulting role was to teach micromanagement of the service provider’s appointment book to make the most of their available seconds while keeping their schedule as close to on time as possible.

You might think that showing up on social media has very little in common with being physically present with a patient, but you would be wrong. Social media gives us the opportunity to really show up, but most people confuse posting to a platform with having a presence in that space. Thinking you’re really showing up on social media using apps to create and recreate content is like a doctor writing about the symptoms of a disease for WebMD. It’s marketing, it’s valuable content, but it is not the same as being present with the patient in the examining room.

Related: 3 Steps to Boost Your Social-Media Marketing With Image Tagging

1. Content equals marketing, conversation equals a relationship.

You post content, and with the magic of technology it shows up everywhere you tell it to go. Then, BOOM! There you are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, any social media platform you choose.

That’s marketing. Sometimes it’s really good marketing. But like all marketing, the purpose is to make you visible, to make you valuable, to get you on the radar of prospective customers and brand ambassadors to invite them to raise their hands and say, “More please.”

Marketing doesn’t build relationships. Most of the people telling you that social media doesn’t work aren’t really building relationships, they’re marketing. These are often the same people who tell you networking doesn’t work because they go to live networking events with a stack of cards and an agenda to market to as many people as possible.

Perhaps all you need from social media is a place to promote yourself and your business. In that case, carry on as you have been, this discussion won’t apply to you. But if building relationships is part of your success strategy here are some things to remember.

Related: How to Save at Least 2 Hours Per Week on Social-Media Marketing

2. People have relationships with people.

People might develop loyalty to a brand, but they have a relationship with the people who represent that brand. If you are the brand, then their relationship has to be with you. Show up as a person who has a brand, not as a brand who is a person.

3. To have a relationship you have to relate.

Some of us are very private by nature. But if you can’t be personal, even vulnerable, people will see you as a personality, not a person. The admonition to “get real” has never been more applicable than here.

4. We bond over things we care about.

If your posts are never about anything except yourself and your work your family and your pets and your life, you’re sending a message that you are pretty much all that matters to you. This may not turn people off initially. But it creates a revolving door of relationships with people who thought they had something in common with you, then slowly realize the only thing you have in common is that you both like you.

5. Relationships are built on know, like and trust.

Letting people get to know you is all about putting yourself out there. If you’re charming enough, people might like you just from what you have to say, but to trust you they need to believe you care about them. Take the time to show up in their space. Do more than just like, retweet, or leave a “YOU GO GIRL!” Respond, engage, invite dialog, and demonstrate that you recognize the unique value of their personhood.

6. You really can only be in one place at once.

I know, I really thought I could have overcome the impossible by now, too. But while I can market in multiple places at once, I can’t really show up as a person and engage in multiple places at once. I spend most of my “person” time on Facebook, that’s my home base of choice. What’s yours?

Related: 5 Strategies for Brands Playing Catch-up on Social-Media Marketing