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by Mel McCarthy Creative Commons License

A blank slate. Many social psychologists believe that the human starts off with a blank slate. Regardless of your ideology, every relationship does begin with a blank ledger. Let me explain.

Social Media is about many things, one of which is building relationships. How to start that building is often debated.

“Relationships take time. If you try to shortcut social media, you’re shortcutting relationship building.”

~ Scott Stratten from “Mannequin Networking: Why Twitter Automation Is Bad.

Scott is right. Relationships are built over time. Being the logical person that I am, I came to the conclusion that Twitter is about trust and tweeted it on September 25, 2012.

In our digital age it’s easy to either be naive (an oversharer) or paranoid (incomplete profile). It’s true that occasionally you do run into people like Terry Rantula, as Carol Stephen describes in her post, “Social Media: Do You Really Know Your Friends?” But should that be the determining factor in our social media strategy?

“There is no reward without risk.”

I’m not saying you should give your street address to every @Tom, @Dick, and @Harry on Twitter, but what I am saying is that you must show something of yourself to start that relationship out.

For example, when I started following @LukasCondie, I noticed his bio said he was an ISTJ. I am, too. So I said as much in a tweet. When @TShirtsAndHats said he was from Fresno, I told him that I went to Fresno State. The conversation built from there.

Brené Brown talks about this type of vulnerability in her TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” which is well worth twenty minutes of your time.

Vulnerability and the Internet: Are you crazy?

To some, the notion of vulnerability goes against everything they’ve learned. I think you can hold cards close to your chest and still be a warm and inviting person. It seems crazy to put personal information about yourself out there on the internet for the world to see, but the key is discretion.

Is it too crazy for me to admit I’m an ISTJ or that I went to Fresno State? No. Will I post my tax returns online? No.

Relationships online begin in much the same way as they do “in real life.”

Enter the Credit on the Ledger

You meet a new person. On that brand new “relationship ledger” the first transaction is a credit. The credit is trust. As this new relationship grows by the mutual exchange of information and shared experiences, the credit line of trust will naturally and gradually increase. You may be willing to meet this person for coffee, attend a conference, or take a vacation with them (all of which I have done).

Unwanted behavior will decrease that credit line. Major offenses will cause you to close the account and put the relationship in foreclosure.

Trust and Influence

I’ve always said that Twitter is like a think-tank. There is a wonderful opportunity to learn from others and collaborate. Earlier today I was brainstorming with a friend in the auto industry. We tweeted ideas back and forth. But that didn’t just happen. We already built a relationship years ago. Why do I have influence with her? She trusts me. It’s really that simple.

People naturally want a greater influence and they use Twitter (and its social cousins) to that end. This desire to be accepted and appreciated is what gives rise to follower purchases, Klout and Kred scores, and the lot.

“Trust is the conduit for influence; it’s the medium through which ideas travel. If they don’t trust you, your ideas are just dead in the water. If they trust you, they’re open and they can hear what you’re offering. Having the best idea is worth nothing if people don’t trust you.”

~ Amy J C Cuddy from “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Real Life Transactions

These online interactions aren’t any more or less risky than our real-life interactions and trust transactions.

As a childless woman, I often hate to go get my haircut. Why? The first question is nearly always, “So, do you have any kids?” That’s a pretty personal question. When I give my answer, “no.” This total stranger with a pair of scissors in her hand asks why.

When you go to a party and meet a new person what do they ask? Isn’t it always a question about your job or where you live?

Do you talk to your mailman or the people in your neighborhood? Of course. We all do. Every day.

Guru Lesson

You can be a warm person. You can give human authenticity to your tweets when you share information that is personal in nature. Be wise and warm. They’re not mutually exclusive. Our stories are who we are.

“I tried to call deep on my courage. And I thought, you know, I am a storyteller. I’m a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller.”

~ Brené Brown from her 2010 TED Talk: “The Power of Vulnerability

11 Comments

  1. Carol Stephen (@Carol_Stephen) on August 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Hi Bridget,
    I love the social ledger and your statements that “Unwanted behavior will decrease that credit line. Major offenses will cause you to close the account and put the relationship in foreclosure.”

    It is all about building trust. So while you might not have that conversation with a stranger with a pair of scissors, that same stranger could, over a period of years and many conversations, eventually become trusted.
    Carol

  2. Michael Prieto on August 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Bridget,

    Thanks for the mention! I totally agree with your thoughts about engaging and building a relationship. Social media is….well, social! Many folks seem to forget that.

  3. Sandy @VTWorks on October 6, 2013 at 5:47 am

    So true! It takes work and time, making it fun is even better 🙂

    • Bridget Willard on October 6, 2013 at 8:02 am

      Yes! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, too, Sandy.

  4. Evelyn on February 8, 2014 at 8:49 am

    I always found great tips in your post Bridget, I had (well still have) issues with vulnerability, but I’m learning that is ok as you say to be “warm and wise”. Thank you, you helped! 😀

  5. […] here’s how to think of twitter in the long term (and I get a mention in this post!): http://youtoocanbeaguru.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/twittertrust/ When you reach this point, you can start moving over to Tweetdeck (my favorite!) or Hootsuite […]

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