By Srinivas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

You’ve probably heard to no end just how important relationships are in the blogosphere. The truth is in today’s age where the evolution of competition has a completely different meaning, you can’t operate inside a bubble. Connecting with people is fundamental to how your business runs. However, building relationships is a delicate and somewhat complex matter that we have to really take the time to understand before we can master the art of connecting.

Perhaps the most complex aspect of how we build relationships in the online world today is the numerous platforms that we have at our disposal.  The key really to “having mad game” when it comes to connecting with people in the blogosphere is being able to understand each platform according to its level of intimacy. Let’s give each channel an intimacy rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being in the most intimate.

Twitter  Intimacy Rating 1: Twitter truly is the cocktail party of social media.  Some people are popular. Some people are not. Some are off in the corners in groups of five.  But, you can walk up to anybody and say hello. However, when it comes to really deepening relationships you’re stuck in the boundaries of 140 characters and a conversation that the whole world sees. While the DM does facilitate a bit more private conversation, you’re still bound by the character limits, making it a bit challenging to form a truly deep relationship. Twitter in many ways is where relationships start and are sustained, but it’s not where they are deepened.

Blog/Blog Comments  Intimacy Rating 3: Commenting on a blog is where relationships with other people start to take on a bit more depth. If we considered dating as an analogy, a comment is kind of like a first date.  In some ways this is the true first impression that somebody will have of you. If you come across as a troll, it’s safe to say there won’t be a second date.  But if all you do is leave a “great post” comment it’s like showing up for a date and saying “you have a nice smile” and going home. Perhaps the best way to put it is that you will get out of a comment what you put into a comment. People like Marcus Sheridan and Ingrid Abboud really get this and all we have to do is take a look at the comments on their blogs to see how true this really is.

Email  Intimacy Rating 5: If you think email is dead, think again. What email offers beyond twitter and blog comments is 1 to 1 conversation with no character limits or content restrictions. You’re free to send somebody anything you want in an email and flattery will get you quite far when it’s done right. Email is actually quite intimate in the context of the online world. It’s a conversation that took place via email that resulted in the formation of BlogcastFM. A conversation that took place via email landed me here as a contributor. You simply don’t know where an email will lead you. A life coach I worked with once said “you’re always one interaction away from having the life you want.”

Facebook  Intimacy Rating 7: Facebook is an interesting one. Some bloggers choose to refer people to our fan pages, while others will allow people who read their blogs to add them as a friend. It seems to be constantly evolving. What Facebook offers that some of these other tools don’t is a very visual glimpse into who you really are as a person. Look through my pictures and you’ll see at least half a dozen albums of surf photography and a handful of pictures of me surfing. While Facebook messaging has yet to do away with the need for email, it’s possible that one day we won’t be using our email addresses anymore. Facebook in many ways allows people to put together the story of who you are as a person.

 

Skype/Chat  Intimacy Rating 8 How often do you chat with your readers or twitter followers via Skype, telephone or a medium that is not technically “social media?” In a world where we’re all defined by our avatars and status updates, the power of chat is highly underrated. These kinds of conversations are the ones that result in the kinds of online relationships that put you in a position where you have a couch to sleep on in any city in the world. When you put a voice or a face to the avatar and status updates the relationships you have online are taken to a whole new level of intimacy.

 

Hand Written Notes/Snail Mail  Intimacy Rating 8 In a recent interview with Gini Dietrich, she made mention of the fact that Mark Schaefer actually sent hand written notes to people he wanted to build relationships with. Consider for a moment the impact that would have on you if somebody sent you a handwritten note or snail mail.

  • I have a friend who to this day sends me a handwritten birthday card.  While most of the world is wishing me a happy birthday on my Facebook wall, she actually emailed me to ask for my address in Costa Rica so she could send me a card. I look forward to her cards every year.
  • My friend and fellow blogger Maria Brophy sent me a care package before I left for Costa Rica that included: The Surfer’s Guide to Costa Rica, a Fodor’s Guide Book, and a note that said “I’m so stoked for you. You’re going to grow 10 feet taller this year.”
  • Dave Ursillo asked for my physical address so he could send me a t-shirt. It’s one of the 5 t-shirts I packed for my surf sabbatical.

There’s something about making this kind of effort that just has an innate ability to cement your relationship with somebody.

In-Person Meetings  Intimacy Rating 10 If you ask anybody what the real value of conferences like Blogworld, South by Southwest, and meetups is, they’ll say the networking.  Some people say you could just stand in the hallway at some of these conferences talking to people and there would still be tremendous value in that. There is an intangible value to in person meetings. After all before we lived in an age where we were all connected that’s how real relationships developed. At our root we’re social creatures.

When you start to understand the varying degrees of intimacy offered by all the platforms at your disposal, how you approach building relationships with people in the online world becomes a more powerful and different ball game.  Where have your deepest connections in the online world been formed?

Srinivas Rao is a contributing writer to {grow}. You can read more of his original writing at The Skool of Life blog or listen to his podcast at BlogcastFM. Follow him on Twitter at @skooloflife

 

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