The Power of Connection: Bringing Online Relationships Offline (Part 2)

I love my online community. Over the last few years, I’ve connected with people from all over the world. We’ve talked about marketing, the joys and challenges of self-employment, our favorite foods, writing, good books and the virtues of coffee.

Most of these conversations have taken place on Twitter, but I’ve also connected with people on Facebook, through various blogs and on LinkedIn. I value these relationships, but a purely online relationship will only take you so far.

Want Deeper Professional Relationships? Go Social Old School.

If you truly want to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with the people you’ve connected with online, you’ll have to go old school and pick up the phone. Okay, you can also use Skype if you wish, but the point is you’ll have to actually talk to people and have a real conversation. Think of it as going old school. After all, retro is hip right now!

For many people, picking up the phone to call someone you don’t really know that well can be a little unnerving. But it doesn’t have to be. And once you get started, you might find that you really enjoy connecting with other like-minded souls.

10 Steps to Building Your Professional Relationships

In the first piece in this series, we talked about the benefits of connecting with other solopreneurs and microbusiness owners and I gave a few tips about how to find people with whom you might like to connect. Here, I’ll give you a simple 10 step process to help you take those online relationships to the next level.

Step 1: Set Your Intention. Why do you want to connect with other solopreneurs and microbusiness owners? Are you hoping to support one another in building your businesses? Do you want to meet people who might be guest bloggers? Do you want to connect with specific types of businesses?

Step 2: Identify Your Connections. If you’ve been online for a while, chances are good you have a lot of connections. So, who would you like to get to know better? Who did you really connect with during your last Twitter chat? Who seems to be speaking your language? And how might you be of service to each of your connections?

Step 3: Ask to Chat. Send your connection a message through whatever social media site you’ve connected on letting them know that you’d love to chat with them further. Ask for their email address so you can set it up.

Step 4: Send an Email. Email your connection directly to explain why you want to connect and to ask if you can take thirty minutes of their time. Keep it simple and set up a day and time to chat. If your connection is local, ask them to meet you for coffee!

Step 5: Make the Call. Call your connection at the designated time. Treat the call as a business commitment. Respect their time and don’t be late. If you meet for coffee, make sure you treat—after all, you’re the one who requested the meeting.

Step 6: Ask Questions. What was it that made you want to get to know this person better? Ask them about it and really listen to what they have to say. It may help to jot down a few notes so you can remember your conversation later.

Step 7: Enjoy the Conversation. Let the conversation progress naturally but remember that your intention here is to get to know the other person, so listen more than you talk.

Step 8: Wrap it Up. Keep your eye on the clock and make sure you respect your colleague’s time.

Step 9: Write it Down. Add your contact to your address book—not to your email newsletter list, but to your professional contacts list. Make a few notes about the conversation and what struck you. Did you resonate with them or was the conversation not as great as you had hoped? Plan how you want to follow-up. Perhaps you’d like to send them a friend request on Facebook? Perhaps you’d like to think about collaborating on a project? Or you may want to explore the relationship a bit further.

Step 10: Say Thank You. Regardless of how the call went, you should always send a brief thank you note. Your contact took time out of their schedule to speak with you, and that is valuable. If you spoke about next steps on the call, this is a great time to make your next appointment or share resources.

That’s it! Just follow these simple steps, modify as you wish, and you’re ready to build your professional network and get the support you need. Need a little more motivation? My challenge to you is to connect with two new people each month. For now, look at your connections, choose just one person you’d like to get to know better and send them a message.

Have you brought your online relationships offline? If so, please share your experience and suggestions in the comments section below. If not, I encourage you to give it a try. And don’t forget to let us know how it goes!

Photo credit: aussiegall

About Erica Holthausen

Erica Holthausen is the Chief Instigator behind the Honest Marketing Revolution and creator of the 10 Steps to Honest Marketing. As a marketing mentor, she helps solopreneurs and microbusinesses fall in love with sales and marketing so they can help more people while building thriving, life-sustaining businesses. She believes marketing is an integral part of how you serve the world. Sound good? Sign up for her email newsletter and join the revolution!

  • Lisa Sutton

    In this day and age of technology we are losing that personal connection. It makes a difference and Erica has outlined so well how to make it happen!

    • Erica Holthausen

      Thank you, Lisa! Online connections are wonderful and are a foundation of my business. But taking some of those relationships offline has been hugely valuable for me-both personally and professionally.

  • Rock Langston

    Making the personal connection has added so much to my personal and professional lives. I encourage people to make these connections, but do ask first, (#3), then relax and enjoy. I’ve had some wonderfully impromptu lunches when I see someone tweet that they’re coming my way. Quick! Raise your hand and offer your time.

    • Erica Holthausen

      Rock, I couldn’t agree more! And I love your enthusiasm and desire to jump right in and make new connections.

  • Janine Grillo Marra

    So wonderful to have Erica reinforce the value of a real conversation, and with all the details! Look forward to hearing more about how to stay true to one’s needs and cultivate those connections that are most meaningful and valuable.

    • Erica Holthausen

      Janine, I’m so glad you found this helpful. In the next post in this series, I’ll be talking in more depth about how to cultivate those connections that are most meaningful-and how many connections we can truly maintain.

  • Kerri Richardson

    Love the easy, doable steps here. Although it still seems scary to reach out to a stranger, the way you’ve spelled it out here is great. I’ve met some great people on social media who have turned into great in-person friends, but I could certainly be more intentional in expanding my circle. Thanks for the nudge!

    • Erica Holthausen

      It certainly can be a little scary to reach out to someone you don’t really know well. So take your time. Once you’ve identified one or two online folks you’d like to get to know better, make a point to have a few conversations with them online before taking it further. Online relationships have a natural rhythm, and you’ll be able to feel the energy shift in the relationship. You’ll know its shifted when the person you once considered a stranger is now considered a friend. Trust your own process, but don’t let fear hold you back!