Today I received 2 similar requests, so I thought I’d share the answer here so others could learn as well. The question was, “How do I get people to interact and build lasting relationships?” Other forms of the question previously have been, “how do I build my followers?” or, “how do I create traffic?” There’s even a book about it called, “How to win Friends and Influence People.”
While I don’t think the actual answer is very hard, the process does involve hard work. It shouldn’t be easy. It’s something that involves much more than just “creating numbers.” Actually, the question, “how do I build my followers?” or, “how do I build my traffic?” are probably the wrong questions you should be asking. The correct question is just what another person asked me today, which you read in the title – how do we build relationships? How do we build community? How can you build an audience that will listen when you speak? Even better: How do I build an audience of people that listen that have even larger audiences of people who will listen? I think that’s the key.
When I was asked this earlier, here is how I answered:
“What do you have to offer? Find people that are interested in what you have to offer, and offer to help – it’s pretty much Karma. The more you give, the more you will get back and the more your community will grow. Build cool stuff. Create cool content. Find people that need help and offer to help with the talents you have to offer. The most successful have mastered these things.”
To another person I suggested building a monthly consulting plan where we work gradually towards that goal. I am worried that person is too focused on numbers though – he will not be nearly as successful.
Earlier I shared my biography of how I got to where I’m at now. I mentioned an important piece to that puzzle to building influence (in my case, getting published, and building a reputation) was how to network. I also mentioned to Jolie O’Dell, which she mentioned in a recent piece on Mashable that this is key to aspiring web developers looking to grow their talent (and I argue this can apply to any position out there). What I haven’t shared is how to network to build that influence.
One of my first memories shortly before I quit my job and started working for myself was Guy Kawasaki visiting Utah to speak. I heard great things about Guy and wanted to learn from him. One of the most vivid things I remembered from his presentation was to always tell people after you help them with something, “I know you would do the same for me.” You see it’s all about Karma – some call it The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Find the needs of those that can help you, and find ways you can use your own talents to help them in their needs. Some call this “Social Capital”, or “Whuffies“, being a form of currency for that Capital.
I actually took Guy Kawasaki up on his offer, funny enough, to Guy himself. As a software developer working a 9-5 job as I mentioned earlier I followed Guy on Twitter – he was a guy I wanted to learn more about, someone I wanted to learn from. My Dad always taught me to always surround myself with people smarter than me, people that I look up to and aspire to be. Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, make this possible and the people don’t even have to know who you are.
Guy mentioned on Twitter that he was looking for a script to automatically follow the people that follow him on Twitter. It had just so happened that I created one of those for myself, and even published the source code on my blog earlier (there’s an entirely similar story with Chris Pirillo, who I now consider a friend, who inspired me to release that due to a similar need he mentioned on Twitter earlier on – I would be wrong not to mention his influence, as well). I decided to offer this to Guy. To my surprise, Guy responded!
To make a long story short, I adapted my script to a format Guy could use, and I even made it so others could use it in a nice, easy to use UI. Thus became the birth of the service I still run, SocialToo. In a private message, Guy thanked me for setting that up for him. He also offered to let me write a post about Facebook on his blog, since I had just published my first book with Jason Alba (which you can read here). My response to him: “My pleasure – I know you would have done the same to me.”
Several months later Guy approached me again, this time with an idea to publish surveys targeting Twitter and other social networks on SocialToo. We built the product, I launched it on SocialToo, and it became one of many more features we have added to the service since. Guy at that point officially became an Advisor to SocialToo, and I consider him a good friend, mentor, and Advisor.
Networking is all about relationships. It’s about how you can help others. It’s about opening yourself up, saying, “here’s what I have. How can I help you?” It’s not about the numbers. It’s not even about gaming people by pretending you care in order to get them to like you back. It’s about building true friendships. It’s about building real relationships. It’s about really caring.
As you build your strategy, are you trying to build numbers, or are you trying to build stuff that helps others? How are you changing the world? How are you building relationships? How are you touching people? Look at Gary Vaynerchuck – I believe he calls it, “Crushing it.” He approaches people that don’t even know him and offers to help, one-by-one. Today’s he’s a brand that even non-social media folk know and turn to for help. He did that one-by-one, starting with the comfort of his own Wine Store in New York. I think you’ll find similar stories for each and every successful person or business out there.
So my suggestion to you: don’t worry about numbers. Worry about relationships. If you have one person completely devoted to helping you because they believe in you that’s so much better than thousands of people that barely even know you’re there. Once you have a large audience, keep in mind you have to shout really loud to get everyone to hear!
Anyway, I thought I’d share this while it was on my mind. After all, I know you’d do the same for me. 😉 (but really, I do this because I want to help!)