As long as you haven’t been hiding under a rock for the past year or so, you’ve more than likely heard the buzz that surrounds the concept of social networking. The evolution of web 2.0 has spawned many new sites that are presenting opportunities for virtually anyone to become a publisher on the Internet.
But, despite the technology that now makes it possible to get your message quickly distributed to hundreds or thousands of people with the click of your mouse, the fundamental elements of building a relationship remain the same. In business, while some may be able to attract customers in the short-term with aggressively low prices or deep discounts, if you are looking to build a long-term relationship with your customers that will stand the test of time there are three important steps in the process.
The interesting thing to note before we get started is these three steps are not dependent on social networking technology, but enhanced by it. They are based in sound “relationship building” fundamentals that have worked for years. Now, with social networking, we have the ability to do this with your keyboard.
First, you need people to KNOW you. This is the first stage in the process, since if they don’t know you, there’s not much more than can be done. In the non-social networking world, we get to know people through networking events and getting “out and about” meeting people. Now, with sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, you can provide plenty of opportunities for people to get to know you online. It’s important, however, to focus on networking here and not trying to sell anything. That will cut the process short and give the other person the impression you only are interested “making a sale”.
Once people know you, you want them to LIKE you. A good way to do this is focus on providing value and sharing information that conveys what you’re all about (which may be hard for businesses that are used to more traditional marketing methods). But, remember it’s called social networking for a reason. Keep it social and network with others. That way, they can learn about you, see who you associate with, possibly read some reviews from your customers, etc. By focusing on others, you increase your “likeability” factor and can hopefully get to the third, and most important part of the process.
Once people know and like you, chances are they will begin to TRUST you. When this happens and the other person has a business need, there’s a good chance that you’ll get a call and the opportunity to call them a customer. Keep in mind, this process, like any good relationship, will likely take time and is not something that will happen over night. However, once someone knows, likes and trusts you, you’ll likely keep them as a customer for a long time because they are doing business with you for the “right” reasons.
Keep these things in mind when you venture out into the social networking world. While the urge may be there to make it “all about you”, the reality is the more you listen and focus on others the more people will want to get to know you, will like you and then trust you with their business. Good luck with your social networking efforts and building those relationships!