How to Build Trust and Relationships on Social Media
This is my story of how I learned that everything in business and in life begins with how to build trust and relationships.
When I started my business in late 2006, social media was in its infancy. It grabbed my interest in 2008 and by 2009 I redirected my business to focus on offering services around social media, it quickly became the heartbeat of my work.
At this time I also started to consciously integrate my past experiences. Although I was a start-up focused on a new technology, I had over 20 years of business experience that helped to build trust and credibility in the early years of my business.
During the early days of social media, people were pushing hard, making noise, clammering about the latest hack or tactic. I believed in a more subtle, focused approach that was about listening, keeping audiences small and targeted, and connecting with the people I wanted to meet.
Basically, I looked through a different lens and ripped apart tools to make them work to handle my strategies. Then I started to do this for my clients and surprising things happened. Since I had no idea what to call this process, they had no way to recognize that I had helped them get on the radar for the Jamie Oliver Show, the White House, or an investor that wanted to buy their product line.
Brilliant Leaders that I Trust
As part of the journey down this new path, I discovered a few leaders that were speaking my language… I instantly felt trust, not to mention total awe.
Ted Rubin was talking about using social media to build relationships. Peter Shankman was leveraging media connections through relationships and social media and built an amazing service called Help A Report Out (HARO) that changed PR. Seth Godin, well… he is a genius.
Over the years some new people were added to my personal advisory board… Bryan Kramer for bringing H2H (Human to Human) to all he does, Dennis Yu for his brilliant mind, transparency, and the way he creates outstanding opportunities for young people, Gary Vee speaks to my gritty Brooklyn roots with his lack of filter. When I heard him speak at a conference he mentioned that a family friend called him boychik, that’s what I call my son [soft-spot]… There are many more. I am humbled by their brilliance and generous spirit.
I read, listened, learned, I was totally blown away…
Trusting the Process
The learning and growth continued and I built my business on the premise that everyone needs to know how to do this…listening, relationship building, strategy, SEO, PR, content, and social media combo thing.
I was a bit premature, most small business owners were not ready, nor were the social platforms and tools. I invested time and money providing services for people that were looking for a magic bullet, a quick fix, the way to become that elusive overnight success… and it was hard, yet I never gave up on my vision, I learned to build trust in myself and my own abilities.
About 3 years ago, something in me shifted and I took the time to be my own client. This has been an amazing process of personal and professional evolution and it’s not over yet, heck it never is.
Here are some of the big, and small, lessons I learned along the way. I am sharing them because we are all a work in progress, there are many layers to who we are, what we do, why we do it, and who we will become. Perhaps they will help you too.
When You Fear Something… Do It Anyway
As you can imagine, I don’t typically follow along with the tribe. I never have. My favorite clients don’t either. One lesson learned is when you feel fear, you are being challenged to delve deeper, to see what you are made of, pushed to see if you are really ready to embrace what comes next? This can show up in your personal or professional life and it is a crucial time… often this is when things get hard and you give up. It is aptly described in The Big Leap, one of my favorite books… the Upper Limit Problem.
There have been so many times that I faced fear and forged ahead, these have led to some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. This often pops up in my work too. Once clients realize that they may have hired me to help with social media, it is so much more, they will be visible in a way they never imagined to the exact people they want to find them, the fear creeps in and they retreat to their safe space.
I am not a business or life coach, or a coach of any kind, more of a strategist and a teacher. Our clients learn how to not only maneuver the complex paths of the online world but to find their place and be present. We do the research and create a customized dashboard so clients are able to see the opportunities that are waiting for them and provide the strategies, plans, and often the content so they are prepared.
We jump-start their presence so when they feel the fear they have some time to sit with it, look through their new lens and see what is possible, it does not take long for them to see the value and the possibilities. This part of every client engagement can be challenging, but it always helps to build trust in our capabilities and their ability to be part of the conversations.
Back to The Big Leap, the only way to get to your Zone of Genius, which is on the other side of The Upper Limit Problem… is to go through it, seeing what is available to you helps to move you along past the fear.
Be Careful What You Delegate
So often clients come to me frustrated. They had hired the latest greatest consultant or bought the new product that will be the answer to all of their struggles and of course it rarely works out as they planned. One common factor is that they were looking for someone else to do their social media, this simply does not work.
Social Media is social. You need to be present in your own conversations. There are many tasks associated with social media that can be delegated to the appropriate team members or consultants. If you are the decision-maker in a business editing photos, shooting video, building a social media dashboard, scheduling posts, or conducting research is probably not the best use of your time, these tasks can all be delegated.
That said, there are some elements of social media that you need to own. You cannot hand off your conversations to someone else if you intend to build trust with your audience. The biggest benefit of being active on social media comes from listening, engaging, and viewing the social tools regularly allows you to keep connected to your online community.
What You Can Learn as a Social CEO
Social CEOs, executives, and business leaders are becoming more and more prevalent, be in the conversations. Below are a few examples of why this is important.
Let’s say that you have the inkling of an idea for a new product or service and have not yet shared the idea. You are not entirely sure that your market will have interest. When you know how to drive the social media management tools, you are able to create and save a search that brings the information to you without having to try explaining an idea that may not be ready for sharing. Some of the searches that are available are: social media accounts, hashtags, keywords, competitors, vendors, media, and more.What might you be able to learn if you had these searches saved and could spend 15 minutes reviewing the custom streams listening and learning exactly what you need to know? Quite honestly, it would take you longer to ask someone else to do this for you.
Perhaps you ask one of your team members to conduct research on a specific audience that you would like to connect with. They do a fantastic job gathering valuable information, yet it is not quite landing for you. There is a missing piece, but since you cannot pinpoint what it is, you cannot clarify your request this leaves you both frustrated and empty-handed.
You can turn this around since you know how to drive the tools. Thank your team member and tell him or her that you will see what you can find to better describe what you are looking for. After a few minutes, you’ll learn that someone you went to high school with is connected to an entire audience of the people you want to meet and you now have a few options for both connecting with the community and better leading your team member to provide the information you need to make effective decisions. How would your team member ever know that?
Moral of the story… we all have our own specific lens that we look through – it is the crossroads of our experiences, connections, and how we think. Every team member will have a different perspective on what they learn and there is value in each one, but leaders and decision makers need to participate too.
Know Your Audience and Speak to Them
Before you can successfully build trust and online relationships, it is crucial to have clarity on (1) who you serve (2) what do you deliver to them, and (3) WHY.
Until you wholeheartedly have the answers to these three questions, you will create silos from your social media efforts and they will never align with your business objectives. This is often why people do not get the results they desire on social media and feel they did not make a wise investment.
Spend the time to identify who you want to know, and dig deep, go beyond the typical business queries. What are their business and personal interests, likes, dislikes, where do they travel, what do they read, where do they shop. All of this information is available online. Once you have a strong client persona you can turn it into a 360° psychographic persona that helps you to find your audiences. Do this before investing in Facebook ads, content development, publicity campaigns, or writing a book.
I recently started working with a client that thought they were ready. As I asked deep questions and showed them little bits of intelligence I found online, they started to spin. We took a break, they realized they were not quite ready and they had some work to do before we could continue our work.
In our last call, the client told me “you broke us open.” They have since engaged with a business coach and are actively creating an updated business plan using the information we provided to them.
When we start again, they will have a comprehensive business plan with objectives and milestones in place. We can then take that plan and work together to align it with their online strategy which will include social media, content development, media positioning, and a book launch. All manageable when you have the answers to those three questions.
Above All Else, Build Trust
Social media can build trust or be a trust buster. One way to avoid being a trust buster is to consistently be the same person online and offline, it is uncanny how people can tell when you are not showing up as YOU.
As you grow your social media presence, increasingly people will initially find you there, this will be their first impression of you and you only get one so you want to be sure it is a good one. Every action online builds upon the last and makes a statement about who you are and what you stand for.
Keep your branding, messaging, and tone consistent across all of your online and offline assets. When you build trust at each level of connection there it is a synergetic experience and your guest will likely spend more time exploring your social media, website, or blog.
Leverage the power of social tools and social media intelligence to stay informed, follow-up, keep connected and always think about how you can help… this way you naturally stay top of mind and continually build trust.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Ha, I saved this one for last just in case I was losing your attention!
Everyone wants to grow their audience, yet people often forget to inquire about who is in that audience. Did you know that when you amass a large following of people that have no interest in what you do you actually build a wall that deters the people you actually want to connect with?
Let’s say that you are publishing a book and you are advised that the only way you will attract a publisher is by having a Twitter following of 100K or more. You only have 500 followers, and this goal is daunting. The only way you can possibly make this happen and get the publishing underway is a quick fix, right?
After conducting some research, you find some nice folks that have a solution that sounds too good to be true. They can help you grow by 10K targeted followers per month. Sign me up! That sounds great in a few months you will have 100K followers!
As your following starts to grow you notice that most of these accounts are spammy, no profile images, bogus bios, in various languages, selling products and services that are undesirable to your audience.
This is what others are seeing when they come to learn more about you. All of the legit connections that you desired are seeing this mess and they run in the other direction. This includes the publishing companies you wanted to connect with in the first place and you have now wasted months of time and likely quite a bit of money trying to achieve a goal that will not benefit you.
Perhaps it was too good to be true. One of my favorite quotes is appropriate right about now “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with” Jim Rohn…
On the flip side… go back to answering those three questions… (1) who you serve (2) what do you deliver to them, and (3) WHY. Now take a simpler approach to building an audience based on the answers. Be as particular about who you connect with online as youdo in real life. Take the time to figure out what you want first, then listen online, find small groups of people that fit your criteria, and simply be YOU.
Yes, this takes more time, but it is worth it. Build a solid foundation to grow upon, you will attract more like-minded people and organizations and organically build a true and valuable community. You will have more impact with a carefully cultivated audience of 500 aligned Twitter followers than a random vanity metric of 100K.
It’s All About the Relationship
It is a long-game, it takes time to build trust and grow relationships both online and offline. My method is not quick, it is not the next best thing. These are back to basics business and marketing strategies, without hacks or tactics. It’s about caring about other people enough to only work with people you can actually help, being honest even if it means losing a relationship or even a client. It is quite simple.
How do you show up? Share below or let’s have a conversation about it on social media.