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.
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.