Relationship Building 2.0: cultivating genuine relationships through social networking

As far back as I can remember I have had a burning desire to connect with people and better understand human nature. As a child I would stick my head through the fence to get the neighbor kids’ attention, hoping and praying they would see me and invite me over to swim in their pool. In junior high I moved to a new neighborhood, and in an effort to make a new friend, I chased down a girl from my economics class because she was walking home the same way I was. As an adult, the tactics have changed and are hopefully more tactful, but the desire to be connected to people has not changed. I am lucky my job requires an outgoing personality and, in turn, provides the opportunity to meet new people and learn things along the way.

It’s easier now than ever before to create and cultivate new relationships with people all over the world. In fact, with the growing popularity of social media, you don’t even have to get dressed and leave your house to have worthwhile connections with people. Some people complain that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (to name a few of my favorite tools) are invasive time wasters, but I beg to differ. Through these tools I have had the chance to re-connect with people from childhood who, chances are, I would never have talked to again; strengthen client relationships; and stay connected with family members who live far away. Yes, I spend quite a bit of my time keeping track of my various networks, but in the long run, the results are gratifying both personally and professionally.

The question I hear the most when it comes to social networking is, “Why would anyone care what I have to say?” My answer is to consider the network of people you are interested in connecting with, and consider this question from your “audience’s” perspective. For example, if your “friends” on Facebook mostly consist of clients and work associates, they probably would be interested in hearing about your work-related experiences. This is an opportunity for you to position yourself as an expert. You don’t even have to create your own content to do this either. By posting links to information available on the Internet and asking questions of your network, you are engaging your audience and starting conversations. Chances are, the longer you are involved in social networking, the bigger your networks will grow. You may have more than one group of people you are staying connected with, and it’s important to consider all of these groups before you post any personal information.

This brings me to the other question I hear a lot: “Why would I want to post my dirty laundry for the world to see?” You have complete control over the content you share through these Internet-based tools. My best advice is to think before you post. I never post anything I wouldn’t want my mom to see. It’s possible to be transparent and let your personality show without sharing overly personal information that might get you in trouble down the line.

I have embraced social networking and encourage others to do so as well. But, just as an e-mail will never have the impact of a handwritten note, social networking will never replace one-on-one real-world connections. So, I leave you with one question to ponder: What are you doing to strengthen relationships in your life – both on- and off-line?

Megan Lane is an Account Executive for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Megan at
mlane@imnv.com

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