How to Cultivate Social Media Relationships (Outside of Social Media)

cultivate2Social media has forever changed the way we connect and communicate with people all across the globe. I’m always amazed to see the many various states – and countries – in which my followers reside. There’s no question that social media has fostered relationships that simply wouldn’t exist without this technology. Although social media helps to make communication easy and automated, there’s one very important aspect of relationship building that we must never put on autopilot or take for granted.

To cultivate meaningful (as well as beneficial) social media relationships, we must continue to build this connection outside of social media alone. Here are four important practices to help you foster your relationships and make yourself more than just an avatar.

Make it one-on-one

Following or friending a contact is only the first step, yet so many of us stop there and think we’ve built a meaningful relationship with someone. Sure, it’s exciting when your favorite celebrity follows you back on Twitter, but this hardly means you’re anything more than a number. To take it one step further, you have to seek out one-on-one interactions.

Once you get a good interaction going with someone on social media, such as a retweet, a like or a comment, follow-up with a private message (or even better an email) to continue the conversation on a more personal level. This could be a potential client, someone you admire or someone who has a question for you. While it’s not exactly face-to-face, in the virtual world, this one-on-one interaction makes you feel like you know the person on a much deeper level and is an important step in building a meaningful relationship outside of the massive, public social media platforms.


It’s what every social media guru preaches, yet so often we still disregard this advice. To build a meaningful social media relationship, you must both give and take. If you have a connection that loyally supports you by retweeting, commenting, liking and sharing – look for opportunities to do the same for them!

The reason so many of us fail to do this is because we can’t rely on platforms like Hootsuite or Socialoomph to monitor this for us. Sure, they can tell us who interacted with our posts, but we need to take it one step further and closely follow our feeds, looking for appropriate times to reciprocate such support for news our contacts share. In doing so, we build mutual trust, respect and friendship that lay the groundwork for a meaningful relationship.

Put a face with a name

Any in-person, social function like a networking mixer, awards dinner or happy hour is a prime opportunity to take your social media relationships offline. There’s always that awkward moment when you know you’re already connected with someone on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook, but when you meet them in person for the first time you still introduce yourself like you’re complete strangers. Stop the madness!

So long as you’ve kept a clean and professional relationship with them on social media (i.e. no stalking or creepy personal messages), there’s no shame in acknowledging you’re already connected with them. Introduce yourself and let them know you’re connected online; they might be thinking the same thing but don’t want to say it. This will put a (real) face with a name and show that you’ve done your homework. It will also make you memorable. Which brings me to my final point…

Be memorable

To make yourself more than just an avatar, you must first make yourself someone worth remembering. Out of all the people who contact me for various reasons, I’ve found the most memorable ones to be those who feel the most genuine. It’s easy to spot a message that was written just for you versus one that’s being sent out to an entire contact list. Private messages on social media are a great tool for cultivating meaningful relationships, but they’re also heavily abused. Be sincere in why you’re contacting this person – this will show through and help you stand out among the spam. It will also increase your chances of getting a response in return.

In a world where virtually everything is accessible online, the need to build personal and meaningful relationships becomes ever more important. It’s possible to accrue thousands of followers without a single one knowing you beyond your twitter handle. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you should strive for quality – not quantity – of connections. For it’s how well you engage your audience that ultimately determines whether they become a future client or customer.

Do you actively cultivate your social media relationships? Share how you do it!

9 thoughts on “How to Cultivate Social Media Relationships (Outside of Social Media)

  1. Great advice, you highlight a lot of good points. I have made a good few connections online and while they’re not necessarily for business, they are people I forged new friendships with. For me I’m interested in animation and film and forging connections has been best through networking at certain events.

  2. Excellent example and thanks for sharing! Depending upon your professional field or even the personal goals you’re trying to achieve, your social media strategy should be closely tailored to this. Social media is just one tactic that must be incorporated into a greater communications/marketing (or in your case, networking) strategy to really see meaningful results.

  3. You can use Hootsuite to create lists, and create a separate stream for each list; i do this, and i find it much more manageable than a single stream. I also have separate streams for the hashtags I follow. I have lists in FB also, but I look at those directly, not using Hootsuite.

    About the face-to-face networking: I’ve always felt like people might be creeped out when someone they only know online introduces themselves in person, at an event. But, about a year ago, I did introduce myself to an online aquaintance at a networking event, and it was a positive experience. Just goes to show you that we can’t let our preconcieved ideas limit us. First we have to recognize these notions for what they are.

    In responding to people online, I’m getting back to my college days. In several of my online courses, there were required forums, and because I was graded on my responses, I made a practice of printing out discussions, reading them carefully, and writing a response when I was relaxed and away from my computer. When I graduated and got into the real world, I got into a different mindset; because so much communicatin I receive requires a quick response. But, in blog discussions like this one, I’m getting back to my college method. This also gives me a chance to to think about how my responses will be percieved. In a way, I’m still being graded, because the people I communicate with online are judging me based on that communication alone, and that could make or break my business.

  4. This is excellent advice all around! I also use Hootsuite from many various social media management and monitoring and prefer it over many other platforms I have tried over the years. Our conversation, right now, is testament that social media is at its best when people go beyond simply “liking” a post, but actually engage in meaningful discussion. Thank you for continuing to bring this to my blog!

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