How to take your online relationships to the next-level

Ross Simmonds

Sunday morning in Piazza del Popolo, Nov 2009 - 43

Build Relationships – Not Followers

For a lot of people social media is another way to build their network and ultimately meet new people. While its not very difficult to build a following or get a lot of “friends” – its sometimes challenging to take your online relationships to the next level. If you think that you can pop online and have tons of friends in a few hours you’re mistaken. Relationships take time and the most important element that needs to be developed is trust. On the way to achieving that trust there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind.  Here are some tips and ideas for how you can take your online relationships to the next level,

Comment on Blogs

Bloggers love it when people comment on their work and get involved. I was talking to a friend who was extremely excited about a 30 second comment some one left on their blog. The little effort it takes to comment on someones blog can result in a deeper conversation and stronger relationship. Finally, comments have longevity; while a simple 140 character tweet will come and go; a comment lasts forever.

Keep the Flame Burning

This is kind of similar to your more traditional relationships. If you want them to last you have to try your hardest to stay in the loop of whats going on in their life. Not checking up on them in a creepy stalker kind of way but more in a “How’s it going” kind of way. This way the person you are talking with will assume that you are showing genuine interest in their life. This simple act can mean the world to someone and should not be used just to make a sale.

Keeping the flame burning with all of your online relationships can be tough as most of these are considered to be loose ties. Thus, it’s important to focus on the people who you truly believe are the most important to you and focus on them. Trying to build strong relationships with everyone is unrealistic and impossible. Keep the flame going with those who matter the most and don’t abuse that friendship.

Stop Linking, Start Talking

This is a huge issue on social media networks. Often people spend so much time looking for cool links and sending off cool RTs that they forget about the social aspect. Rather than constantly pumping out links to Wired or Smashing Magazine; try having conversations. Interact with people like you would at a party rather than the house of commons. While sharing links with your friends and followers is great – its more powerful to build real relationships through conversation. Try to spend an entire day only talking and no linking; you’ll be surprised how good it feels.

Have REAL conversations

I strongly believe that with all the great relationships I’ve developed using social media, there is still something special about face to face conversation. I’m not only talking about those conversations that you have at a random tweet-up. Those are included, but I’m also talking about having conversations through Skype, instant messaging or even e-mail.

  • In Person – Having conversations in person is without question the strongest way to build rapport. The benefits of having face to face conversations in person far exceed any virtual interaction. Its somewhat obvious why having conversations in person are so powerful but let me quickly list a few; body contact, real-time, facial expressions, voice/tone, etc…
  • On Skype – Skype is probably the second most effective way of carrying a real conversation with someone. You are able to communicate with people on skype everywhere from a coffee shop to your bedroom. The main difference between having a skype conversation and a real life one is the body contact. You’re able to see their face and you’re able to hear their voice; its simple an amazing tool for making your relationships more meaningful.
  • Phone – One of the more traditional methods of conversation still holds tremendous value. A phone call gives you an opportunity to communicate in real time and hear how they react to different topics. You can learn a lot about someone from the way they carry themselves in a conversation. While you can easily backspace and erase on social networks; its impossible to do so on the phone.

About Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is a digital marketing strategist who has worked with everything from Fortune 500 companies to startups to drive results using digital marketing and technology.


  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ross Simmonds. Ross Simmonds said: New Post: How to take your online relationships to the next-level […]

  • -Nicely written and useful. Thanks!

  • Glad you enjoyed it

  • […] site for a few months. When you use twitter, use it to meet people in the industry and ultimately develop strong relationships. If you play your cards right you could end up with anything from; collaboration opportunities to […]

  • Good tips there.

  • loripop326 says:

    This is a great article, and something that people should really take to heart. Thanks!

  • Appreciate it!

  • I hope they do! – Thanks a lot for the comment..

  • jacobian says:

    really useful tips.but I usually ask for her blackberry PIN number so that I can get in touch with her using BBM (blackberry messenger)

  • ciaochouevelyn says:

    The picture you use is a little bit misleading in my opinion.
    Not every social site is a dating site.

  • Every social site can be used as a dating site if you develop a strong enough relationship with people. No matter if you're on or you're still talking to people. And no matter what, people still have feelings.

  • I've never asked for a BBM. But I do like the idea.. Gives you the opportunity to get in touch on a more personal and intimate level for sure. Thanks for the comment..

  • Great topic.
    We have a community leader named Brandon Chesnutt or @bchessnutt on Twitter. He has been a total leader for the tech community by putting together sponsored events for Detroit. He rocks and I have been doing everything you suggested but Skype. I am not a fan of video!

    You can never under estimate the power of in person meetings.

  • Thanks for the comment Jamie – The emergence of community managers in the business world is definitely changing the way organizations do business. Glad its working out for you!

  • […] While its a great concept when you’re working at a call center or as a hotshot in the boiler-room. This mindset will do more damage than good when applied to social media and ultimately ruin your reputation. Instead of sending two tweets to a person and following that up with a ten page proposal; try developing a relationship. […]

  • […] Real Relationships By developing deep and authentic relationships you have a greater chance of having your information shared across a variety of different channels. […]

  • chrisdenman says:

    Also, Offer to help people. You never know what taking a little extra time to help resolve an issue or problem will lead to.

  • Dylan Sagar says:

    Hey Ross,
    You make a lot of great and logical points regarding interation online. I am new to this and find this bit very useful. Thanks!
    That said, people make decisions based on emotion and do their best to justify it with logic. Stir the pot anyway you like and always leave some extra on the table!


  • Thanks for the comment Dylan! Much appreciate it.. I like your point about purchasing decisions having a greater connection to emotion than logic and couldn’t agree more. When you look at the iPhone 4 for example – The phone is great don’t get me wrong but there are so many other options with the same (if not better) features out there. People are connected to the iPhone 4 because of it’s brand recognition and the feeling they get when they make the purchase. It’s all about the emotional connection… We can be connected to people and brands just the same.

  • Aldelory says:

    I agree with what you said and would add that people might think about constructing an on-line personality consistent with their in-person character. Also in SM as in F2F conversations be an active listener: no one likes someone who merely downloads their own stories and makes sales pitches without taking an interest in others.

  • Steph says:

    Listening, actually hearing what the other person is communicating. A deep level of active listening is fundamental in building rapport, trust and solid relationships. Yes, I agree with talking and the ‘art of conversation’, I fundamentally believe in the importance of ‘listening’.

  • Thanks for the comment. You raise an interesting point about the creation of an online personality and the in-person personality. I think this is something that many people forget but also something that the crafty individuals can take advantage of. At the end of the day, you’re not the persona you create on Facebook or Twitter – You are the person that is behind the screen. The reality is that often times, those two people aren’t the same person and it’s quite a surprise to meet someones “alter-ego” for the first time. I feel it’s sort of just the nature of the beast… People who are hyper social online are comfortable because they have time to think, delete, google, etc… While in person they have to think on their feet and aren’t always that great with understanding the typical dynamics of a conversation. Anyways, thanks for the comment it really has me thinking and it might lead to a new post on my blog very soon!

  • Thanks for the comment. You’re spot-on in regards to the importance of listening. The conversation between two people can’t be a monologue. This is a fundamental issue that many people have when they meet someone for the first time, it’s not just in social media. A lot of people want to grab a coffee and only talk about themselves when they should be asking the other person questions and getting to know them better. Sure, you have to let people know a bit about you but knowing more about the other person (IMO) is always more rewarding. Maybe it’s because I just have a general interest in people and how they think… All in all, listening is key. Thanks for the comment (and thanks for listening).

  • […] Content Curation is the act of discovering, evaluating and sharing relevant content with your network. This approach is a great way to answer the question “What should I tweet about”. This approach allows you to take a position as someone who is passionate about a variety of different types of info and is a great source for excellent links driving to relevant content. The better the content you share, the more connections you’ll make with people all over the world. As you share great content, people will ask you questions and tweet you with comments. From here, it’s important to engage and interact with these people so you can further strengthen an existing online relationship. […]

  • […] bring this principle back to your business: how can you take your services to your customer?Shortly before I gave a guest lecture at the University of Washington last month, the prof told me, …problem!Some segments of customers place a higher priority on price than color. Some need […]

  • […] online who will be willing to share and distribute your content. The best way to do this is to develop strong relationships online and empower your community to share your work, posts, deals or whatever else is being put out from […]

  • […] you’re looking to take your online relationships to the next level, look no further than meeting someone in person. A connection with someone over Twitter, Linkedin […]

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