Keys to Being Social: Relationships

Bridget Willard

Home purchases. Marriages. Stock Market.

No one has a problem understanding these are long-term investments. But when I bring up social media, Twitter specifically, all I hear are concerns about return on investment (ROI) word one.

Seriously? So you plan on starting a relationship scheming for what you can get out of it?

Not only is that mindset self-centered, it’s short-sighted. Twitter is one of the best listening tools around. Yet there is so much social failure.

“…sometimes it feels like I’m the only one paying attention to others.” @TheFabSocial

“Send out your messages continuously, and use UPPER CASE. And lots of punctuation marks!!!!!!!!!” Carol Stephen, Your Social Media Works

Picking My Brain

The other day I had a phone conversation with a Twitter follower who wanted to feature what I’ve done with @RigginsConst on Twitter. Another friend said she wished that telephone conversation had been recorded. This is my attempt to download my Twitter strategy for business to business relationships.

Return on Investment

Everyone understands how easy it is to link a tweet with a return on your investment in retail. A tweet that says “show this tweet to the cashier and get a free cookie” can be recorded and saved. When we, as consumers, love a brand, we share it with our friends. I tweet about my deli and my ZipzShoes, for example. All of this can be measured, quite possibly, in real time.

But what about Business to Business or commercial accounts? You can rarely point to a specific tweet that brought Customer A into your brick and mortar. I talk about this extensively in “What 7-Eleven and A Billboard Say about ROI.”

The strategy for social media (I prefer Twitter) in B2B relationships is totally different. It’s about relationships.

It’s about Relationships

Though I tweet my heart out, put people on lists, engage, and reciprocate, I often agree with Amy’s sentiment. There aren’t a whole lot of people wanting to engage. But when you find them, they’re like gold.

Those relationships naturally develop over time. With every interaction, conversation, your mutual trust is built up. As these new relationships naturally progress, you can take them offline, as I did with Allen Buchanan.

Relationships and Branding

The feelings (sentiment) that people associate with your company – no matter how many touches they’ve had with you – is your branding.

“When you have a relationship with a person, the logo has meaning.” Tweet This

There’s no shortcut to relationships either online or off. They take time to develop and time and effort to maintain. And, given enough time, these relationships you’ve cultivated, like a Twitter orchard, will produce fruit. The fruit could manifest itself as friendship, referrals, or new business.

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Strategy – A Peak Behind the Curtain

My goal, with Riggins Construction & Management Inc.’s social presence and relationship building is two-fold. I want to remain at the top of their mind (oh yeah, we want to improve our office space, let’s call Riggins) for when they do want improvements. Also, I knew that eventually our customer base would be online. I’m building the social infrastructure that helps people find us when they “Google” design-build contractors.

Though, I’m not entirely altruistic, I’m not a cat-petting, gold-ring-wearing evil mastermind from James Bond, either.

Social Capital and Emotional Attachment

There is a gift in being an introvert; that is, introspection. Time spent thinking about why I felt too ashamed to checkin on Foursquare at Subway made me realize that the truth is we, subconsciously, feel emotionally obligated to our friends.

Do I go to Subway in my town for a $5 footlong? No, I go to The Real Deli. I have a relationship with them.

Does our IT guy stop by our office “just to say ‘hello?'” Yes and no. He knows that when he comes around he keeps his brand (professional services) at the top of our mind.

Do I order keychains from some random company I find on the internet? No. My friends have a business, we ordered our keychains from them.

The Bottom Line Isn’t the Bottom Line

The point is that you can network from your desk, car, or anywhere in-between using social media. Though technology is saving us time and freeing us from the barriers of geography and time zones, it is no substitute for manners and common sense. Technology does not replace the steady, slow growth of relationships. It’s a long-term investment.

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