I just got an email from a very smart professional whom I happen to like a lot.
We met on someone’s blog, followed each other “home,” and now see each other on social platforms pretty much daily.
We share each other’s links, support and tease each other on Twitter, and share brief direct message dialogues every now and again (no, not about you. Not the… time before last, anyway).
So what was the email about? It wasn’t a link to a “Join me at New Social Group.” It wasn’t a mass email. It wasn’t a casual hello.
It was an update about a business project we’re working on together.
You see, a couple of months ago we expanded our casual relationship into a much more serious one. And it’s one of the most pleasant business relationships I’ve ever had the pleasure of benefiting from.
We share both a personal and professional affinity that usually takes months for businesspeople to cultivate, even though we have yet to confide our heart’s deepest desire to each other.
What were the things that helped us wade from the “friendly acquaintance” into the “friendly business” end of the pool? Speaking only for myself, I can say I didn’t jump into it blindly.
Consistency – but not like you’d think.
And by that I don’t mean the same activity over and over. I saw consistency in quality of character and communication across multiple social channels. Because of it, I felt reassurred that the Smart Professional would fall within the same patterns in real life.
Don’t mistake consistency with routine. Consistency never gets stale.
When you blog, tweet, or post to Facebook, do it in a natural rhythm, not an imposed one. People aren’t recording or anticipating the exact moment in time they see you every week (there, there; I know it’s hard to accept), but they are paying attention to what they see when you do get in front of them.
Proof of professionalism.
The smart professional’s website was packed full of evidence of what the company was capable of, and the blog offered more proof of industry knowledge and practical experience.
I came back for more, not because I was looking for those services or even as a favor from one Twitter buddy to another, but simply because I expected to leave feeling smarter whenever I visited.
So when the business opportunity opened up, I actually felt proud to join such a happenin’ company.
Personable – not sticky.
As I mentioned, I don’t know every living detail about the other person, but I didn’t have to in order to feel completely comfortable beginning a business relationship. The vibe I got via our communications on social media was just right.
Being social on social media provides you the freedom to choose what level of “social” you want to give to each of the thousands of people you run into on any platform.
When you’re presenting yourself as a professional, put everything you want to post to the “sticky” test. Will people feel conflicted about who you are or what your motives may be after hearing a very personal story – and will that push your agenda forward?
If not, it’s not their business – at least, not until you’re ready to be friends.
Photo credit: Nicola Corboy, courtesy Flickr, CC 2.0.
Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.
Shakirah, I'm sorry I'm late to this one! As you know, I really like it and get it and have had the same experiences with folks online. I like your overview of how you felt comfortable to move from one level to another - a perfect case study of what it takes to win over fans and ambassadors! Too bad folks don't often 'get it' or work from a script to achieve the same thing!
@EricaAllison No apologies necessary, Erica--I'M sorry for responding so late! I know, I've read so many of the horror stories--especially in the freelance world--about professionals who hook up online, but in reading it, I can often see the relationship was started in a way that could only end in tears.
@skypulsemedia And they are so serious, even though they don't seem so. Thanks for sharing @ShakirahDawud #WUL post!
Hi @ShakirahDawud this goes to the heart of a post I just published. Individuals can build powerful relationships via social media. Brands can not on the same scale. They take time and effort. Pepsi can not afford to hire someone to work twitter to become buddies with 200 people vs the need for that person to react, tweet and reach thousands shallowly. But people can build great relationships that benefit and enhance our personal and professional life as you bring up so poignantly here!
"Pepsi can not afford to hire someone to work twitter to become buddies with 200 people vs the need for that person to react, tweet and reach thousands shallowly." Exactly. That's why small businesses or solo establishments are so agile--and able to garner large followings in their own right--on social media compared to the big brands, which are trying but really aren't "built" to build these kinds of relationships online, I believe.
Like @bdorman264 said, it's just like "real" life, isn't it?
This in particular resonated with me: "When you blog, tweet, or post to Facebook, do it in a natural rhythm, not an imposed one. People aren’t recording or anticipating the exact moment in time they see you every week (there, there; I know it’s hard to accept), but they are paying attention to what they see when you do get in front of them."
This is something that I've always done, even when I've scheduled tweets, which I still do occasionally, and even now, when I use Buffer and/or Triberr. The one thing I used to do, which I don't do that much any more, was "sign off" when I was going offline... that was my way of not just saying "goodbye" for the day (just as I would IRL), but also to let people know I was offline and it might take a while for me to respond. I'm not sure why I haven't been doing it recently, though simply NOT being online as much - due to work and other stuff - might be a part of it. What do you think of doing that on a regular basis?
You know, I used to sign off, too, but stopped. I stopped at first because sometimes I would get on or stay on anyway after that sign-off. Then I justified it because I figured who cares that much, it's just li'l ol' me. It's a nice courtesy, though, one I think could stand reviving...
Great insights, Shakirah. I've had relationships like this, and it's a real testament to the fact that "real" relationships can develop online. Yes, we need to be careful, but you've offered some great guidelines. Thanks!
It's a lot of fun and adventure, really; I've enjoyed building both kinds of relationships, and I guess what I'm saying is that just like with any other relationship, it pays to listen to the signs and listen to your instincts.
Well, thanks for speaking so kindly of me...........what? This wasn't about me? Confound it.........
I hear what you are saying, after awhile I think you get a pretty good vibe of what's real and what's not. I have been surprised a couple of times and even by people everybody just love because they think the online persona of this person is so great they are blinded by reality. However, it's just like real life; not everyone is going to be perfect and as long as you know what the playing field looks like you can certainly choose your level of involvement accordingly, right?
I have made some real friends online too, and it has been a good thing for me.
Thanks for sharing; good to see you at Shonali's.
Exactly like real life, Bill, yes. We have to give it time, definitely because as you said sometimes there are some surprises behind the avatar. They can be good or bad, and what may not make a good business relationship could be an even more rewarding friendship.