What is your strategy for social media intimacy?

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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  • Anonymous

    Srinivas, this article underscores the importance of the human connection, beyond all social platforms. We still like to hang out with one another!

    My deepest connections online come from what I call the “treasure hunt”. I love to dig into blogs and comments, tweets and facebook pages to learn more about the person before following or commenting. It is indeed like dating: I need to get the first impression, see if it holds true on the second and third “date”, and then connect. When I’ve been able to learn something about someone, see if we click (pun intended), then the real conversation begins. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding the common ground AND the differing opinions that create a lively, valuable connection.

    On your point of handwritten notes: I still send out cards and notes, handwritten and hand addressed because not only do I think the recipient will value them, but because I love the feel of pen on paper, and the crafting of a simple note or greeting by hand. I’m a greeting card junkie, and have accumulated cards that I love, knowing that one will be the just-right-fit for someone down the road.

    Great post Srinivas, and I LOVE {grow}! Warm regards, Kaarina P.S. Now I need your mailing address:)

  • This is so true! I love meeting people on Twitter or FaceBook, but nothing is quite like the thrill of meeting in person for the first time. It still makes me shake my head in wonder to think that some of my closest friends now are people scattered all across the globe. Social media is great, but the TRUE connecting happens when we are actually laughing on the phone together or navigating a conferernce together. 🙂

  • Excellent points / list Srinivas

    You summarized each point well. One tool that was left out that I feel could be made mentioned is Linkedin (the step-bother of Facebook, and the often forgotten middle child in social media), Linkedin could be on two different levels.

    iLevel2: People connect with people they generally know, or have interest in and are willing to receive updates via feed. However, nothing further happens.
    iLevel7: Similar to email, Linkedin mail offers an extremely close connection, and with the addition of recommendations, and “request for connections” this space can become increasingly intimate.

    In addition, I thought the point of Facebook could also be an either or example. If you join my Facebook Fan Page, in mind mind that’s an iLevel of 3/4. You’ll know a little more about me than Twitter. With the addition of images/videos, you can connect on a deeper level. I agree though if I let you be a “friend” that’s the level you’re at. Which some people forget

    Again, excellent points, and thank you for sharing

  • Thanks for the post, Srinivas. As someone who is something of an introvert, I have a hard time putting myself out there. I find it difficult to reach out and use more intimate levels of connection. I tend to think it’s just making myself a pest. Your post makes me feel more encouraged to take it to the next level. It’s important–and when I have done it, very rewarding.

  • I LOVE your intimacy ratings ….and they make sense. I dont want to name drop, but the little service I created and you joined that starts with T 🙂 How would you rate it in terms of intimacy?

  • Dino,

    I’m not sure where Triberr would fall in terms of intimacy. My guess is somewhere in between twitter and Facebook because there is an exclusivity aspect to it.

  • Nicole

    I think that blogosphere actually does tend to have many introverts. While I’m an extreme extrovert, I think that even introverts can benefit from this kind of understanding. You can have a deep connection with 1 or 2 people and that could be incredibly rewarding.

  • Josh,

    Good catch. I probably should have included Linkedin in this, so thanks for bringing into the discussion. Linkedin is interesting to me because the dynamics of social behavior that you see across these other platforms doesn’t seem to be as prevalent there. Part of it is just context. WE think of Linkedin as a professional resource. Even though they are integrating social behavior in with many of their new features I think it has some challenges. Thanks for bringing some great viewpoints to the discussion.

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  • Kenny Rose

    Mark love the concept. I have been thinking about how to integrate some of the platforms and how to use them in the most effective manner. This post answers a lot of the questions. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. Seriously! You have a nice smile too.

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  • Karina

    It’s funny because I think I more or less do the same, but I’ve never really dissected into a process. The thing I look for most when I dig into blogs, tweets etc is how interesting is this person’s story. Of course then I look at how they behave across the social web. Are they cool? Are they friendly, etc, etc. So I guess each one of those impressions is like a date. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  • This is a list worth saving and referring back to often…

  • Srini did a great job with this. I love his fresh perspective : ) Thanks for commenting Kenny!

  • I agree 100% Tara. I just finished hosting a conference where I got to meet many Twitter friends for the first time. It was quite an emotional experience!

  • These are great ratings and they absolutely fall in line with how I rate online relations.
    I am just not sure why a written note would rank higher than a Skype chat…they seem both quit high in my book.
    Agree with rating #10 and one of the reasons I look forward to meeting some of my online friends next month in NY.

  • Johnny Russo

    Solid post Srinivas. I agree with Josh – LinkedIn should be part of this list. Tough to rank it. I think for most people, it would be close to a 7 or 8. Some others may see it as a 3 or 4. For me, LinkedIn helps me stay in touch with former colleagues and former classmates (yes, email can do the same, but it feels more business-like on LinkedIn 🙂 ) Also, you can keep up with interesting jobs, interesting groups, share and like updates. I think it can get pretty intimate if you are using all their features. So for me, the intimacy scale of LinkedIn would be around 8.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Great list Srini! It really puts the social media tools in perspective. The research is fairly established that the great majority of our interpersonal communications are based on nonverbal cues (93% in one UCLA study). On Twitter/Facebook, etc., so many cues that we are evolutionarily programmed to use to establish a connection with someone are missing. Face-to-face will simply never be replaced. Agree with John Falchetto: As much as handwritten gestures are meaningful, I think Skype/chat might win second place, as you still do receive some body language and tone of voice.

  • Adam

    Great observations. Non-verbal communication is incredibly powerful and I think that Facebook in particular tends to show us quite a bit of that. We really can paint a picture of someone that is fairly accurate from their behavior online. It’s funny because I always say “you know you’ve found your voice as a blogger, when somebody meets you in person, and they’re exactly what you expect.”

  • John,

    Skype is definitely powerful. In fact I consider it one of the most powerful. I think that perhaps the power in a written note is that, very few people do it. People who have ever sent me anything via snail mail that I primarily talk to online I remember forever. Looking forward hanging out in NYC.

  • Anonymous

    Love this! I would add that, from both sides of the relationship, you want to pay attention to where you are on the intimacy scale so that you don’t “jump a level” before it’s comfortable. I don’t like it when someone cold-Skypes me or does a generic LinkedIn request without saying how they know me. You need to lay the groundwork in the lower-level media first, and then progress naturally to the higher levels.

  • Srini, wow brother, love articles like this with a clean break-down that shows the effectiveness of each. I very much agree with your scale here and the more I move along this path called ‘relationships’, the more I look for higher level stuff. Sure, twitter and comments are a great way to get things started, but depth is what carries the day (hence me instant messaging back and forth John Falchetto while I write this comment).

    Also, I want to thank you for the mention here. The relationships that I’ve built with tons of awesome people have come as a direct result of the seeds that are planted within the comment strands. Griddy is an even better example. She’s so good that people literally look forward to her replies (heck, I know I do and others have told me the same).

    Again, great job with this Srini!


  • Anonymous

    Great list Srini! I admit it was hard for me to understand what was going on when I dove into social media several months ago. There were so many people that just pounced and tried to connect with me using a sense of familiarity that I felt like we hadn’t reached yet – so I went with the flow and tried to do the same because I thought that’s what was expected.
    Fast-forward to today (and a lot of lessons learned the hard way) and I realize that social media is best experienced when you treat it like you would when you meet someone in real life – be polite and respectful of boundaries and the longer/more you interact with people, the more you get to know them and see how they fit into your circle. Not everyone will become a close intimate friend, but the ones that do will be that much stronger for the time you both took to nurture and grow the relationship. This approach is clearly not the road to the instant popularity many people crave when the jump into social media, but it’s certainly much more satisfying in the long run.

  • The value of snail mail letters is incredibly undervalued in this fast paced life we now lead. I’m a big fan! They are definitely the most intimate and thoughtful examples of this list. Great post!

  • Yah I think cold skype is a bit weird. I don’t mind cold emails because people will just reach out and say they like what you’re working on and I do the same when I find something interesting.

  • Tisha,

    I know what you mean. Long before I understood Twitter I used to think it was ridiculous and I didn’t have any interest in it. I think for many of these tools they don’t become useful until you know how to use them which is kind of odd. I think by playing in each of these mediums I’ve gotten a sense of the intimacy levels in each one. It really comes down to being open to connecting with people.

  • Marcus,

    You’re getting a pre-cursor with this into some of my talk at Blogworld. I think I’m unintentionally or subconsciously writing aspects of the talk without even realizing it. It’s really interesting how understanding the depth of each platform can really help you think about the strategy for how to approach each medium. My pleasure on the inclusion. As for Griddy, I just got one of her epic comment replies and I’m like “wow, I can see why people look forward to her replies. They’re as good as her blog posts.”

  • Excellent break down, Srini. Snail mail, in my opinion, is a great tool for those special clients (like our art collectors) and people that you really care about.

    I’m tickled that you remembered what I wrote in the note of the care package I sent you! That tells me that it did it’s job – letting you know how much I value you, and that I care about where you are going in your life. 🙂

  • Excellent break down, Srini. Snail mail, in my opinion, is a great tool for those special clients (like our art collectors) and people that you really care about.

    I’m tickled that you remembered what I wrote in the note of the care package I sent you! That tells me that it did it’s job – letting you know how much I value you, and that I care about where you are going in your life. 🙂

  • I liked your rating system too Srinivas, great idea. I always get a little wistful when seeing these sort of posts though.

    I can’t write well or for very long since I wore out the thumb joint on my right hand, plus folding and sealing an envelope as well puts a letter beyond me. I do have my handwriting as a font, so I can cheat and type a handwritten note, if I want to!

    Personal meetings are rarely going to happen, unless someone turns up at my door!

    For me I’d place Skype as my top intimacy social media tool, especially if I turn on the video. I think it’s the equivalent of meeting in person for those of us who simply cannot travel any distance.

  • Loved the description of Twitter – a channel I love but struggle with because I ALWAYS feel like I am on the outside looking in. (And that’s how I feel at cocktail parties too!)

    And thanks for remember In-person Meetings!! God, if I have one more person move me from one social media channel to the next instead of letting me buy them coffee or lunch, I am going scream. There are just too many people hiding behind technology, pushing people away and then pointing to their use of social media as ‘effective’ – missing the fact the goal is personal relationships.

    Thanks for the post – looking forward to reading more comments. Pat

  • Anonymous


    Of course we at GoGrabLunch.com are going to agree that fcae to face meetings are the highest in terms of intimacy.

    With that said I’m curious how everyone feels that relates to building trust in a business relationship. Trust being paramount.

  • Anonymous


    I really enjoyed this post because it made me look at the various social media platforms from a different perspective. You’re right that each one invites and nurtures a different level of intimacy. We’ve noticed something similar from our analysis, sometimes conversations occurring on facebook are quite different than what might be discussed on other social platforms. Other times, topics discussed on Facebook are validated by exchanges on other platforms. It’s a really interesting idea and I like how you are describing the degrees of intimacy in comparison to each.

    I would politely suggest that email offers a bit more intimacy than Facebook but I can probably be swayed on that one. I think it’s the context that FB creates: photos, status, news feeds – lots of noise that can sometimes overshadow a one-to-one exchange.

    Again, thanks for the great post!!

  • Hey Srini – I would have to say our in-person meeting has elevated our relationship significantly. That’s pretty cool considering the fact that often times when you do meet people in person, that’s not always the case.

    I’m excited with what the future potentially holds for our relationship Srini. You my friend are my kind of people and I look forward to sharing in the journey with my man.

    Cheers to creating and being awesome!

    And cheers to your work here Mark – you are the man!!!

  • I’m jealous you got to meet Srini. I have four regular contributing columnists and I have not met any of them! Your kind words are appreciated, Mark!

  • Mark,

    I’m stoked about the bright future ahead and a media powerhouse in the making 🙂

  • Well said; the more personal you can make the relationship the deeper it will go. I’ve done a few personal cards & e-mail but haven’t taken it to the skype or personal phone call yet. But that is on my ‘to do’ list for the year.

    I’ve connected w/ Mark Harai and he recommended checking you out and I’m glad I did.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck on your journey.

  • Bill,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my stuff. I think that what you’ll find is that when you start to explore these deeper connections things you never expected will happen, things that extend beyond your business.

  • Pat,

    I think that sometimes we’re so caught up in all this cool new technology that we forget just how important in person meetings are and the fact that it’s how we connected to begin with. It’s not our nature to meet in person and i think that’s where relationships get taken to the next level.

  • Maria,

    Snail mail has power that really just stands out in the world we live in. I’ll actually have a special care package for you after my parent’s India trip in a few months, so keep your eyes open for it. I can’t thank you enough for that note. It’s a continual reminder for me what what lies ahead when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.

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  • You know it’s funny that this personal note thing got so much attention. I didn’t even think about it at the time. I’m just naturally polite I guess so when somebody does something really great for you, why not thank them with a note of some kind? Never pass an opportunity to thank somebody.

  • Thanks for your comments. I think that email probably does currently offer a bit more intimacy than Facebook but it’s likely given the continual evolution of Facebook we could see that change in the near future. You have may seen that youtube video where they mention Boston College didn’t hand out email addresses this last year. No doubt that the noise on Facebook can interfere with the intimacy. I think the once Facebook steps the capabilities of its messaging platform we’ll see that change. Part of my irritation with gmail is the sheer volume of spam I’m dealing with because I signed up for the account so long ago.

  • I think services like yours are the next evolution of social media in many ways. In my mind a Web 3.0 world will be one where you’re meeting people that you connect with online in your local areas in person. Personally I think it’s great 🙂 because it extends the possibilities of who we could meet personally and professionally. I’ve always said that online dating sites would be better of hosting mixers once a month, getting the members together and then letting them connect back on the sites so it’s not a complete stranger you’re talking to. (maybe that will be my next venture).

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the compliment. I completely agree that in the near future social media while be used to make the initial contact followed by face tonface meetings through services like ours.

  • Ryan,

    I think that Skype is one of the greatest things at our disposal. As you said it bridges the gap between those of who can’t travel the distance to meet each other.

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  • Hi Srinivas,

    I just came about this page by way of Griddys weekly round up, this was the first post I read. Your intimacy ratings where really interesting and spot on. I was saying only yesterday about the” trickling, sound bite nature of twitter making it complex to form relationships that feel as though they have familiarity aka intimacy”. I still love to receive an email from people, as opposed to a facebook message of DM. There are many people following the Tim Ferris mode of communication, where “brevity” is king. 140 characters has become a challenge rather than a restraint

    When someone takes the time to connect with me fully by email, or Skype, as may it not possible for us to meet in person. I really appreciate it. There is something about the prevalence of on-line culture that is effecting intimacy on a societal level. Really enjoyed this, thank you

  • HI Srini! I had not actually put an intimacy rating on these social medial tools before, but yours makes perfect sense. I often describe Twitter as a cocktail party, but you took it to another level of accuracy. So true.

    I recently was lucky enough to meet not just Mark Schaefer in person, but several other folks that I’ve connected with via Twitter and I have to say it was awesome! Definitely a 10. Now, when I tweet, email or FB them, I can see their expressions well beyond the avatar. I can imagine their body language and hear their laughter. Someone’s humor and their spontaneous laughter is perhaps my most favorite quality to know in a person. Can’t wait to hear yours one day!

    And still on my ‘to-do’ list, much like Bill Dorman said, is the Skype conversation. Thanks for the additional nudge (I think that’s 3x now in a week!).

  • Hi Srinivas:
    I cams to your site from Ingrid’s blog. And found that you have a beautiful post here. I liked reading it. It is written in easy to read style and your point of view is great. It is an original idea.
    thanks for a good read

    Fran A

  • Stacey,

    Thanks for your kind words. I’ve found just based on experiences of having been so fortunate to conduct interviews that when you push beyond twitter and blog comments to skype, email and chats you just seem to have more depth. As you said it’s become a challenge rather than a restraint. Like you I appreciate when somebody goes out of their way to chat with me via email or another channel.

  • Erica,

    It’s amazing what happens you meet in person isn’t it. I think it’s just an endless flow of ideas and brilliance when you get people like you’ve mentioned together in one room. Once you meet in person you just “click” on another level entirely. It’s really hard to put it into words.

  • Thanks Fran. Glad you found it helpful 🙂

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