One of the perks of being an Internet marketer is the exposure you get for expanding your network of friends all over the world. Much of our success as an Internet marketer depends on how we handle our relationships with people online.
I’m by nature an extremely private person and it used to make me cringe whenever people talk about making yourself visible online. I’m active on Facebook but I’m mostly within my limited set of friends, relatives and office colleagues. Even then, I rarely post photos of myself, my family or my private life on Facebook. I do share content, post status updates but they’re rarely about myself, my family or my work. So, asking someone like me to share my blog posts on the social media and follow unknown people or accept friend requests from unknown people (despite their having mutual friends on the social media) is like asking the impossible. I have never been comfortable with that.
One of the basic tenets of online business is that you have to market yourself and your business if you want to achieve success. If you thought you could only depend on Google for the organic traffic for success, you cannot be more wrong. Getting ranked on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP) of Google and other search engines still remain crucial but you cannot ignore other traffic channels like social media, email marketing, forums like Quora. Achieving success requires a definite multiple-pronged approach.
Your success or failure is closely linked with how you conduct yourself in the online space. It does not matter whether you’re in Network Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Direct Sales or a traditional business, you’re in the business of building relationships. You have to reach out to the people because after all, the whole idea of an online business, especially blogging, is providing help and solutions to the people in your niche. What’s the purpose of starting a blog or an online business if you’re going to remain incognito and unreachable? Nobody likes to deal with anonymous creeps. If you want people to start trusting you, you need to show that you’re a real person, who’s approachable and who’s ready to listen to your story and your concerns. Sometimes you have to come out of your way to make them feel welcome.
In today’s modern-day world, most relationships are sustained online. Because of our family commitments and work, and because of having immigrated to foreign lands, we have made ourselves less available for our friends and relatives. But the Internet came and we are maintaining our social relationships through Facebook, WhatsApp, emails, Skype and other communication tools. The Internet has made it easier to be in touch with each other.
Can Friendship Happen Online With Unknown People?
Internet keeps your relationships alive. But what about unknown people on the Internet? Can friendships happen with people outside of our circle of known people? Internet for many is still a dark and dangerous place to socialise. You hear stories of online stalkers, sociopaths, perverts and scammers infesting the Internet. It is not easy to solicit genuine friendships online and make them function offline. The garb of anonymity provides avenues for online mischief, lies, frauds and scams and in such a scenario, people are always suspicious about the motive when people make the first move for an online friendship.
I do not accept friend requests from completely unknown people. Most people don’t. But things change when there are mutual friends between you two. Even though people are more wary and critical online, mostly the same set of social rules apply there too. You have to be willing to open yourself up to people. But two years into my blogging journey, I have made many friends online who I have never met in my life. Call it a modern-day ill or anything, but I seem to spend more time online now to socialise with people. Whether it is with known people or with new “friends” I met online only a couple of months before, socialising happens more in the Internet space than in the offline.
I have seen children of my friends growing up right in front of me on Facebook, people getting older, people getting married, friends dating, holidaying, getting sick and even dying, their stories are a part of my daily life now just as mine are with theirs. So when I made new connections with people in my Internet marketing community, there are many with whom the connection is more than just acquaintanceship but are morphing into real friendships. And as it happens in the offline world, we share our stories, our fears and insecurities and our dreams with these new friends and the relationship starts functioning normally.
Is Having a Wide Network of Online Friends Necessary for Success?
Well, if you talk about increasing your blog traffic only, perhaps having a wide network of friends in the online space may not be that significant. But when you talk about new opportunities, new trends, news on search engine updates or new ways of creating sales funnels, having a strong network of friends help a lot. They provide new insights and inspirations for your journey. You can relate to their struggles and their success. Whether it is guest posting on their blogs or suggestions, asking our online friends become easier. They are more than ready to like or share your content, which benefits your business directly. And they do drop in their comments on your blog posts for better engagements. These have SEO benefits too.
Activities like network marketing (such as in MLM) are easier when you have a wide network of friends. I have seen many successful ventures (including blogs) that are handled by a team of online friends. They work in perfect synergy and are able to create content that is more engaging for the audience.
So, having a wide network of friends is an important element in creating your own online success story. If you want traffic, activity and sales or leads happening, you need dedicated and repetitive followings. You have to show the people who you are and you need to let them where and how to find you.
Cultivating Good Online Relationships
Fostering an online relationship requires the same set of social skills as in the offline sphere. I’m required to be more responsive and compassionate here in the online space.
Marketing, whether offline or online is all about knowing your customer. It takes an understanding of how they want to be communicated to and what they want to be informed. When you make new online friends, it allows you to understand the dynamics of the relationship deeply and how in the beginning, you have to take it slow and gentle.
There are many people who are in their elements when online. Sharp, witty and incisive, these people are such a pleasure to connect with. One thing I have learned is that you need to respond and reach out to your friends if you want them to be responsive to you. Perhaps, more than what you would have done with your original offline friends. People do not like or comment on your posts when you yourself don’t do them. Simple. If you genuinely like a status update or a post, show them that you’ve read it and liked it too. If you remain inactive and a silent observer, it sends out a negative signal of you being aloof and unfriendly. You cannot expect to gain new friends or followings with such an attitude.
The Online Etiquettes or Netiquettes
Like I said before, nurturing the online friendship requires the same set of social skills and etiquettes. There are some best-practices though.
Participate in online communities and groups. One of the best ways to expand your network (and hence your audience) is to follow other people and their pages. They will follow you back. Being in a group of like-minded people is a great learning experience and it puts you in a good vantage point for better online visibility. It mostly works on a two-way basis: you help people and they help you back. When you post something and when people enjoy what you put out there, they’re more likely to remember you or bookmark your posts.
Refrain from bragging or talking about yourself only. You also need to refrain from sharing your stuff only while you don’t share other people’s posts. It can be a turn-off for many people and they’ll have a hard time figuring out what you are really like as a person. If you remain faceless and distant without actually participating in the interactions that happen within the community, you are perceived as being unfriendly.
Comment and engage in conversations. It’s a good internet practice to cross-promote – share and like other people’s stuff. One of the great ways to win over new friends is to comment and like their posts or shares. In other words, getting yourself engaged in their posts and shares. When you do that often, people are more willing to take your stuff seriously.
Comment more. Do you post more than you comment? If you do, you need to stop immediately. You need to comment more on people’s posts and engage yourself there if you want to really connect with them. It might not be easy for many people in the beginning but it comes naturally after some time.
Be yourself. This is the most important thing. Nobody likes phoney people. The idea is to attract people and not to drive them away from you and your business. You cannot get away with being fake and pretentious all the time. As it is, people are nervy and more wary of the internet and when they perceive you as being fake, it will not be easy to make them accept or join anything that you offer. On the other hand, if you sound sincere and honest, people are more willing to trust in things that you promote online.
The Business of Building Relationships
I must admit it was very difficult for me to get into this building relationships online thing. I have never been fond of engaging with people outside my circle of friends and relations. But when I got into my blogging journey, I realised that this behaviour of mine was getting to be a big stumbling block for my online visibility. And in the noisy and crowded world of blogging, the name of the game is making yourself visible online. Even though I consciously followed many fellow bloggers and internet marketers (and I was being followed back too), things more or less remained at that only. The fault was mine because I never got myself engaged in people’s posts and updates. I took this whole chatting thing as being time-wasting and a distraction from my blogging activity. Hence, even if I casually checked out other people’s posts, I never commented or clicked the like button. But did people like or commented on my shares? No! That’s when I decided to do something about my social activities and overall presence and an honest introspection revealed many things that were wrong in my attitude. I changed. I became more sociable, I started commenting on people’s shares, participated in their conversations, wished them and I saw the things changing. People started liking my posts and even started sharing my content. I had cracked the secret code, it seemed.
The bottom line is if you want to attract more people (and more business) the key is to be more open and friendly in your online space. Build up a good online reputation. While it teaches you many things about how the Internet marketing works, it also is a good way to gauge what things are ailing you and your business. It changes you in many positive ways.