Social media has completely revolutionized the way people communicate with one another. We are now able to expand our network by connecting with people in other cities, states and even countries. Sometimes, however, people forget that we were able to engage with one another prior to social media, and we often lose our ability to form real human connections. So with all this “connecting” and “engaging” behind a computer screen, often in 140 characters or less, how can we really foster a strong, memorable relationship with someone? Here are some ideas to help you take your online relationships to the next level by bringing conversations offline and interacting like we used to, before social media.
Say Thank You
Think back: When was the last time you received personalized communication from someone you’ve done business with—and no, e-mail blasts with your name don’t count. For whatever reason, people seem to forget the power of saying thank you. It only takes a few minutes to send a handwritten note, but the impact it has on the recipient lasts much longer. I’m a strong believer in business karma, and the less self-serving you are, the more it will pay off. So next time someone does something nice, try and remember to say thank you.
Example: At Grasshopper Group, much of our business is grown by word-of-mouth, so when a customer raves about our brand on Twitter we’re so appreciative. We always want to say thank you, so we started sending simple handwritten thank-you notes with a gift card good for a free cup of coffee.
Use Your Voice
Can you really convey a strong message in 140 characters or less? And can you really tell a person’s tone in an e-mail? The answer is no. A phone call is like a first date in social media world. It’s a time to finally show your true colors and not hide behind your computer screen. Phone calls allow you to really get to know someone, gauge their attitude, learn more about their personality and make a stronger connection. Taking 10 minutes out of your day to pick up the phone and call a customer, client or partner is easy, and you never know what can come from the conversation.
Example: Start-up Yipit, a daily deal aggregator, has a policy to reach out and collect feedback from users who unsubscribe to the service. They send an e-mail offering a $10 Amazon gift card to get on the phone for 10 minutes and explain what happened. Coincidentally, one of these unsubscribers happened to be an executive producer for CNN’s Money unit. A quick phone call turned into a featured CNN segment, sending a record number of signups to Yipit’s site.
Oh, the Humanity
Regardless of who you’re talking to—a customer, media contact, potential partner, etc.—you need to remember that they’re just like you. B2B companies need to make their engagement much less business-to-business and more peer-to-peer (P2P). Sometimes we avoid seeming human in fear of turning off paying customers, but there’s a way to come across as professional without sounding like a robot. First, don’t speak in corporate jargon; speak like you would to a friend, and convey your personality in a conversational tone. Secondly, find a way to make an emotional connection. Social media makes this part easy; we’re able to learn about so much about one another before we even meet.
Example: Grasshopper Group co-founder David Hauser finds a way to balance being professional and human when engaging with his audience. Follow his blog or his Twitter account and you’ll see that his interaction is genuine and casual, yet well respected. He’ll respond to customer’s questions from his personal Twitter and on his blog he’s transparent about his experience as an entrepreneur, sharing the good and the bad.
Sure, meeting every customer and influential contact in person isn’t exactly scalable, but social media has made it a more realistic option of engagement. Planning on going to a conference in another city? Tweet your followers; see who’s based in that city and who wants to grab coffee. Not only will your trip be more worthwhile, but you’re now building real relationships with people you’d otherwise only associate with based on their avatar.
Example: Executives at Freshbooks, an online invoicing solution, has mastered the ability to multitask, attending conferences and meeting with customers. During an August trip to Las Vegas for a Zappos conference, their team not only went out and visited customers at their offices but then invited everyone to a big dinner.
People want to do business with people they like, so why not go the extra step and show your true personality? In an age where superior customer service is not only important but crucial to your business, quality is better than quantity. So while having thousands of Twitter followers may make you look cool, how are those “relationships” helping your business? Take the time and make your relationships stronger by connecting offline.
Stephanie Bullis is Ambassador of Buzz at the Grasshopper Group, a company that provides entrepreneurs with tools they can use. She can be reached at email@example.com.