I was reminded again last week of the power of Twitter when I attended the E2 conference in Boston. There I met in person a couple of colleagues, whom I had known for a long time on Twitter, but never met in real life. Twitter provides a great way to build relationships virtually that quickly grow when you meet in person.
And this is a lesson that mid-sized businesses (and any size business, for that matter) should keep in mind. When you’ve been communicating with someone on Twitter for months or even years when you meet in person for the first time, there is none of the awkward getting to know you because you know them already.
For colleagues like the ones I met in person last week, that meant we could just hit the ground running. And this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this effect. I’ve been on Twitter since 2008 and I’ve forged many friendships and professional relationships there.
As a journalist, that means I meet people to collaborate with, people I can use as sources and just make friends to talk music and sports.
That’s why it’s so important to show at least part of yourself on Twitter. If all you do is show up when you have something to promote, you’re not going to form any meaningful connections because people will just see you as promoting your product or service –and your Twitter feed is wasted as a sales or marketing channel.
Even in my role as a journalist, I certainly use my Twitter account to promote my work, but that’s not all I do. I share articles from other publications I find interesting and I retweet (repost) other’s tweets.
Being social is being social. That means basic kindergarten rules like sharing and caring is what it’s all about. If you can help out, by all means, answer a question or share a tip or trick you learned (to the extent you can do that in 140 characters).
When you’re a good online citizen, it’s very much like being a good one offline. People like you and more people follow you and you build your sphere of influence. And you begin to have a core group of people you communicate with on a regular basis.
Twitter becomes your water cooler. You share jokes and news and help each other out with problems. And a funny thing happens. In this virtual world, you begin to get to know folks and you establish a friendship
That means when you do meet in person, you feel comfortable with your Twitter friends, because they are your actual friends and you can have a meaningful conversation and hit it off immediately because you’ve been communicating with one another for a long time.
My wife likens it to pen pals back in the day when people could establish extremely meaningful relationships by snail mail.
From a business perspective, if you look at customers as building relationships, then getting to know your customers, suppliers and business partners online means you can have a real relationship with them offline when you do finally meet –and that’s a benefit of social media you might not have considered.
Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.