Forget Followers, Build Relationships

Forget Followers, Build Relationships

This is a guest post by Shanna Mallon from Straight North.

Most of the time, social media seems like a numbers game—all about who can get the most followers and how fast. But, in truth, it’s not the numbers that convert; it’s the relationships.

Here’s how to grow them.

1. Be Real

Social media users value transparency. Be authentic and open, and you invite readers in. Talk about a new project you’re working on. Share stories. Be honest about your own mistakes. When your audience gets the sense that they’re seeing the real you, that’s the first step towards friendship.

2. Learn to Listen

Good listening skills are Friendship 101. Show other social media users you care by paying attention to what they say. Ask questions. Respond to their content. Share their stories. As an added benefit, by listening to what your fans are saying, you’ll have a better sense of what they like and be better prepared to provide relevant content.

3. Provide Valuable Content

As you’re listening to your readers and getting a sense of what they like, find ways to cultivate that type of content. Give your readers a reason to return by sharing content that is legitimately valuable. This could be expert advice, interesting interviews, how-to guides, etc. When you consistently publish high-quality work, you establish trust with readers—a building block for any relationship.

4. Be Generous

A man who has friends must show himself friendly, right? Look for ways to reach out and give to your audience. Answer their questions, retweet their posts, promote the projects they’re working on. When someone leaves an especially thoughtful comment on your site, email him or her a personal response. By giving generously, you show your fans you care.

Building relationships instead of counting followers

5. Keep the Conversation Going

Reaching out to followers once is good; reaching out to them regularly is better. Look for ways to engage your audience on a regular basis and vary the specific method you choose. You may end some posts with questions, reach out for feedback on social media, run a survey, follow-up with a commenter’s complaint, etc. The idea is to keep your followers talking with you.

6. Talk about Readers’ Interests

People like people who are interested in them. When you’re engaging with other users on social networks, don’t start the conversation by promoting your brand. Talk about the things that are interesting to them. Long before you talk about your company or blog, get to know the person with whom you’re talking.

7. Think Long-Term

It’s as true online as it was in high school—you don’t make your best friends overnight. Give relationships time. In terms of social media, take a long-term approach to building connections. Remember that the seeds of friendship planted today will pay off over the long haul.

8. Make Connecting Easy

You want readers to subscribe to your newsletter or leave comments on your blog posts? Make it easy. Display the sign-up button prominently. Get rid of Captcha comment filters. Take steps to invite and encourage readers to connect.

Photo credit: josemanuelerrex1klima

  • Beautiful piece. All the most important stuff; this is what makes social media meaningful. But somehow it’s the easiest to forget. Thanks for the thoughtful reminders!

  • Thanks for stopping by Miriam. I agree with you, I liked the post mostly because I thought it was a great reminder of the value behind being patient to cultivate strong relationships little by little.

    I’m glad you liked it.

  • Yes , Indeed you recalled everything , This is the way one should proceed to make Strong relationships .

  • “Think Long-Term” – Excellent advice indeed. I know plenty of companies who build a Facebook page, update it regularly for a few months and then forget about it. When visitors come across the profile and realize it hasn’t been updated in a while, it leaves a bad impression. Social media is not a set and forget concept, if you decide to build your social media presence, you need to set up long term goals to keep your outlets active.

  • This was a great guest post. Social media is becoming larger than anyone probably ever imagined. I was just reading an article about how things said on social media can lead to divorce. Its powerful. Use it responsibly.

  • talktherapybiz

    Wonderful points, Shanna. I’m amazed at how I often people will hit you up for something free just b/c your email address is posted online. Got an email today from a chiropractic company that wanted me to copy and paste their site info b/c it would “help drive traffic to” my site. The kicker was the “no hard feelings if you choose not to” ending line.

    #2–the most essential and hard to come by, IMO.

  • These are all excellent statements, Shanna. Thanks for writing this article and sharing it with us. Social media is the next step for everyone – whether they will accept it or not. And we must take actions to assimilate and adapt to this trend.

  • Great and simple points to follow. #7 I think is crucial. People on social media tend to think about the immediate benefits, not the long term..

  • Ariel Carlson

    Great points to help us reach our goal, which isn’t just the end number. The customer relationship evolves over time, so we must focus on what customers want and need constantly. We need to build these two sided relationships on social media just as we need to in face to face interactions.

  • lebyers

    These are all great tips! I think the very first sentence of your first tip is my favorite. “Social media users value transparency”. As a child who grew up with the internet and social media, I am constantly amazed at some of the ways that companies try to reach out to their customers and then use their information in other (inappropriate) ways. I think transparency is key to building trust and, ultimately, long-term relationships!

  • This essentially summarizes the way we need to carry out all internet marketing techniques. Those days are over when having a large number of followers was considered a positive thing.

  • Social media is one of the best and strong way to build up the conversations. The authentic value of social media are transparency with high approach connections for the marketing.

  • Abbie Touchton

    These are great steps to implementing a strong social media presence! Step number one, being real, is a huge part of how consumers perceive a business using social media. If they are not already loyal to the brand, a single post can turn them away from ever purchasing a product. It is very important to remain alert of what your customers are saying about you and how they are processing the things they are seeing posted by your company online. Thinking long term is crucial as well. Many marketers want to see results practically overnight when implementing a social media campaign when often this is not the case. Customers need to feel warm and welcome before they take that first step and begin interacting with your company online.

  • Katie Shannon

    I think these are great steps for companies using social media to follow. Consumers are exposed to advertising everywhere they go. They don’t want it to clog their facebook or twitter feed too. Companies who use their pages to interact with their users instead of spamming them are far more likely to have people follow or like them. I like that you start your post out by saying it’s about relationship, not numbers. So many companies are so desperate for followers, likes, shares, etc. It creates a disconnect. Consumers will quickly unlike/unfollow those who seem desperate for these things. But those who care about their customers quickly have the opposite reaction.

  • couldnt agree more. great post, Shanna!

  • ser


  • This is a simple yet well-written post. And you hit the nail in head when you said that “relationships” must be built first before anything. Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed.