The majority of business owners believe that using the internet to build relationships through social networking is a waste of time. Others think that face-to-face is the only way to start a proper commercial relationship. No matter what side of the fence you are on, the fact is, a large portion of businesses around the globe are now conducting research and business transactions electronically rather than face-to-face, and social media is quickly becoming a part of our marketing activity as well as a new foundation for building quality business relationships.
Building a relationship digitally can be extremely powerful for any business. If approached correctly, connecting digitally can be a true meeting of minds without the distractions of bodies and the surroundings that can often take your business to a higher level in an instant. You can often get a lot closer to people online than you can face-to-face because quite often online relationships can turn conversations to personal issues--topics that would never have surfaced in the same amount of in-person time. It is the sharing of a personal side of an individual that can build a stronger business relationship. People do business with people they like and feel they can relate to at some level.
The mind-set with traditional relationships, however, is much different from digital. Traditional face-to-face relationships have a lot of elements that can make it take longer for a business relationship to develop. One of the major factors is rejection; it can be stronger in face-to-face relationships, whereas with digital relationships, you do not have to deal with visual emotions. Communication between two people via type/copy, video and instant message chats can be more authentic and transparent in a digital relationship vs. traditional, where you might forget what you wanted to say and walk away thinking "I should have saidÖ." With digital relationships, you have time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
The most popular forms of business communication in digital relationships are e-mail, Skype and instant messaging, and in a wired world where the talent we need or seek is distributed widely, building digital relationships using these online tools is likely to be increasingly common.
To help you get started building and harnessing digital relationships, here are a few tips:
1. Decide on your commitment: Define your level of engagement with people that you meet online according to your ability to support it. Do not reach out to others online unless you allocate the time needed to build rapport and support the connection.
2. Be sure to engage: To build effective long-term relationships, you need to engage with online connections. If you are not having a conversation, you are advertising, and that is not considered an authentic relationship.
3. Be personable: When people you reach out to feel like they can relate to you at some level, whether it is through personal interests or hobbies, they will be able to connect on a deeper level. For example, when you post what you are eating for breakfast, people actually might care; this type of personal share makes the interaction more human and personable.
4. Friend check: Ask yourself if this is someone you would want to hang out with or someone you would want to do business with. If you wouldn't have an in-person relationship with them, then you most likely will lose touch in the future or not build an authentic long-term digital relationship. Don't try to force something that doesn't really work for you or your business.
5. Safety check: Do a background check of people with whom you've built a digital relationship or decide to do business with, especially if it is an overseas company or individual. Make sure that the company or person is legit, check their recommendations and testimonials, and use a reputable background-check company that includes national and international criminal history reporting.