5 rules of online relationship building

Relationships are the key to your digital marketing strategy. Your brand interacts with peers, influencers, and potential customers every day online, and the way you nurture those relationships hugely impacts the success or failure of your digital marketing efforts. Whether you’re just starting out or want to expand your digital network, follow these five rules to build your online relationships and increase the reach of your online marketing efforts:

  1. Be Brave

    If you’re new to social media and other online communities, it can seem a little daunting getting started. But, the great thing about blogs, groups, and social networks is that meeting people and sharing ideas is the point!

    Everyone else is there to engage, so don’t be afraid to start a conversation, join a group, or comment on a forum or blog post. At the least you will have introduced yourself, and at best you’ll begin building real relationships with others in your industry or target market.

    One caveat: Be nice. Even if you are sure that your opinion or idea is correct, don’t post negative comments or criticize others. It’s not useful to you to be right if nobody wants to talk to you.

  2. Be Authentic

    People can spot a fake online just as quickly as they can in real life, so don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Represent your company values and expertise faithfully, and always try to maintain your brand voice. Tell the truth, follow through with what you say, and be consistent, and over time your online network will come to trust you as an authority in your field.

    You want to interact genuinely with your followers online, so focus on having natural conversations and try not to sound forced or sales-y. Make comments and answer questions in a straightforward manner, and don’t try to turn every conversation into a sales pitch.

  3. Be Valuable

    Nobody wants to listen to you talk (or worse, advertise!) if they aren’t getting any value out of it. So, consider your audience: What are their needs, wants, and interests? What can you provide that would spark and keep their attention and encourage them to engage with you?

    Provide content, advice, and customer service that your online network will find useful. Then, you can link back to your website and other platforms with additional info and sales information for those people who are interested.

  4. Be Present

    Just like your real life friendships, you can’t only tap into your online network when you need something. You have to maintain a presence and be responsive to your community on an ongoing basis.

    Join conversations, reach out to people who follow or add you, and never let a question or comment go unanswered. Even if someone has given you negative feedback, reply helpfully and try to resolve the issue. They will appreciate the response, and showing that you care about their concern may be enough to turn the relationship around.

  5. Be Generous

    Relationships, like conversations, go two ways. You’ll get the most out of your online networks if you give something back to them, so help your online friends out.

    Promote their content to your various communities, like and follow them on social media, and respond to retweets and shares. Recommend them on LinkedIn or provide testimonials for their websites, and pass their product or service information along to your contacts if you think it’s useful. Even if they don’t do the same for you, it will help build the relationship and demonstrate to others that you may be a friend they’d like to meet.

    Strong relationships with customers, peers, and industry influencers are essential to expanding the reach of your digital marketing efforts and establishing your brand online, so put the same effort into these relationships that you do the rest of your marketing strategy. Follow these five rules, and you’ll be able to to attract online connections and forge relationships that are valuable both for you and for your online community.