Last week, I was at my local grocery store feverishly trying to complete the weekly chore so I could get on with the rest of my day. I took a sharp left down the paper goods aisle at lightning speed. As I reached for something on a shelf, my eyes met a familiar face. It was a woman I’d seen a hundred times before.
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: there is no amount of likes that can forge a true relationship. Social media has its benefits, but it doesn’t compare to the value of genuine authentic 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. They look interesting, so we accept. Five minutes later, there’s a message from them pitching their product or service. For most of us, this is an instant turnoff. Not only will their offer be ignored, but they lose an opportunity to build rapport.
Rapport is simply a harmonious relationship; one that requires mutual understanding and empathy. Human beings, at our most basic level, are wired for connection. 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. Be authentic. 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. The 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 and one of the most important kinds.
A former colleague 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 which 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.
Be the kind of person who invests in others. One of the most effective ways to do this consistently is to set aside time every week to create value for the people in your world. Review your connections list and for each person ask yourself: How can I help this individual? How can I create an opportunity for them? Is there an introduction I can make? Can I forward an article of interest or a word of encouragement? Whatever it is, no matter how small, take the time to make an impact.
Utilize Social Media
Thinking that social media is a substitute for real-world interaction is a trap. We’ve all fallen for it at one time or another. 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.
Open doors. Create opportunities. Give generously. And, if one of your followers greets you with an exuberant hello in the paper goods aisle, maybe suggest a quick coffee meeting and discover where things go.
Amy Pocsik is the CEO and cofounder of the Women’s Business League, a national networking community for female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.