Social media is supposed to be about relationships, and in most cases is just an online extension of an existing offline connection. However, using it solely to communicate with those you already know ignores social media's real power: fostering relationships with people you would otherwise never get to meet.
One thing that makes such online-only (or at least online-initiated) connections so intriguing is that almost everyone these days is available on social media. From political leaders making policy in Washington to movie stars making tabloids in Hollywood, there are a lot of high-profile people that you now have at least the possibility of connecting with.
Connecting With Others in Your Field
More attainable, and perhaps more useful, are the influential leaders within your own industry. Building an online relationship with such business leaders, thought leaders and publishers could help raise your own profile, and send many of their followers to your social media profiles or website.
Though these kinds of social media relationships are possible, they usually do not happen overnight. Building a relationship with someone influential in your field through social media will likely require several steps.
- Follow them. This is the obvious first step. Most social media networks allow you to "follow" someone, even if they do not know you and would not currently think of you as a "friend." Twitter is completely based on following, as is Google+ (though it refers to following as adding a person to your circles). Facebook and LinkedIn have also implemented limited "follow" capabilities, though each are still based more on friend requests or invitations.
- Share their content. Retweet their tweets, share their status updates or post links to their content while tagging them as the author. Popular authors will already get such affirmation regularly, and may not take much notice of your gestures. Still, it is one step towards standing out of the crowd.
- Comment to start conversations. Posting a comment on their blog, or on their social media shares of the content, is the next step in making yourself noticeable. Asking a question (hopefully an intelligent one) in such public forums is not considered intrusive, and is generally welcomed. If you do get a response, you've now started a conversation, and know that they have seen your name.
- Send a private message. You can connect in the public social media forums, and that may actually suit your purposes if they take note and start following you or sharing your content. For a personal relationship, though, you will probably have to start a one-on-one conversation outside of the public sphere. You can do this on most social media sites through a direct message. Again, the more famous they are, the more people they will have contacting them this way, so they may not have time to respond.
- Attend a public event. If they are speaking at a public event, you may be able to introduce yourself in person. Your best-case scenario would be a conference with smaller break-out sessions, where you can ask questions and not be competing with an overwhelming crowd.
You won't be able to connect with every person, so don't pursue anyone to the level of being an annoyance. But by trying these steps with a number of potential influencers, you may find some who are receptive to building a relationship through social media.
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