Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn- these and other social media tools now allow you to connect with business people that you admire. However, when it comes to making an online connection, some folks are great at it and some are a hot mess.
How can you be effective in making the online connection?
Be authentic: It’s clear when you are being genuine and also clear when you are being a phony, even in 140 characters, an email inquiry or in a blog comment. Authenticity goes a long way.
Be funny and clever (if you are funny and clever): Funny and clever prose is a good way to get attention, but only if you have a good handle on the other person’s sense of humor- not everything translates clearly in writing and things that you find funny may not “read” as funny online.
Talk about their favorite topic- them: Everyone is open to some light flattery (don’t go overboard or you will look like a kiss-ass and a jerk). Share what you like or admire about their work as a way to start the conversation.
Give to get: Offering your help and advice for a cause or endeavor that is important to the other person is a good way to earn some brownie points. However, don’t do it with “quid pro quo” expectations- do it because you want to be helpful. Nobody wants to feel obligated to return a favor.
Understand how they like to communicate: I hate Twitter DMs and rarely see them, so anyone trying to connect with me there probably doesn’t hear from me. However, I am much better through email. Knowing preferred connection channels improves your odds significantly. Also, feel free to try one and if it doesn’t work, try another.
Know when enough is enough: There is a difference between being a fan and being a pest. Always leave them wanting more. Also, remember that everyone needs to get some work done too, no matter how interesting you think you may be.
Be inappropriate: Keep business as business. Seeking stimulating conversation is one thing. If you are looking for something else to be stimulated, look elsewhere.
Set unrealistic expectations: Sometimes individuals reach out to someone and then, get their undies in a bunch if they don’t get the type of response they are hoping for. Building a relationship takes time, so be patient. If you act like an idiot, your target will never engage with you. Also, being pushy isn’t a good way to make friends either.
Ask for something from a new connection: Build a relationship before you ask for favors or help (see do’s/give to get).
Expect it will happen overnight: Sometimes, it takes a while to establish a connection, but if you continually support someone on social media, comment on their blog and/or send them supportive emails, chances are that they will take notice.