Engaging in meaningful conversation can sometimes be tough in a virtual world of likes, comments, heart emojis, etc. Social media is a double-edged sword. It is a tool to get quick updates on people's lives, but it also creates a false sense of meaningful relationships. It's so easy these days to give a little thumbs up or heart emoji in response to someone's comment or post on social media. Although there are times to do that, I would say that leaving a genuine comment will get you further if you are trying to network and establish relationships with certain individuals. It's easy to get wrapped up in the idea that by "hearting" or "liking" a post is keeping a genuine connection with someone. When in reality, half the time that person doesn't even know you liked or hearted their post to begin with. That's why if you are wanting to establish a true connection with someone, commenting, and leaving a thought out response is the way to go. Just the other day I made a new friend through social media because I simply commented on their post in a Facebook group. 

This particular Facebook group is for anyone learning and improving their skills with Photoshop. Oftentimes members post pictures and ask for commentary or feedback. I left a comment on someone's post, walking them through a step by step of what I thought would help them in their dilemma. The gentleman direct messaged me, thanking me for the response, even though we found out that my solution didn't quite work. He was kind in his message and appreciated that I reached out in the first place. We ended up chatting over direct messenger and got to know each other better. We even realized we had some connections. Now we chat almost every week and have established a friendship, even though he lives in Germany and I live here in Utah. I'm glad I connected with this individual and that he was bold enough to message me directly. If he had simply "liked" my comment to his original post, we would not be talking and connecting as we do now. 

If you are a business owner, this same idea can be applied to you and your business. Your audience wants to see if you care enough to respond to them and get to know them a little. Make it an effort to spend a few minutes here and there and respond to people who have taken the time to comment on your social media content. I know for larger businesses, that's nearly impossible or very time consuming if you get a lot of feedback on posts. However, I would still suggest making it a priority. Also, make sure the people who you are following and want to connect with hear from you. Networking is all about connecting, and what better way to do that then to initiate a conversation or interact with a post in an authentic way. This can be done in several ways. One way is to acknowledge that you read the post, meaning comment on something that the person said. If they shared a long personal story, then read the entire thing and pick something you learned from them and share that. For example, "I liked how you shared that growth can occur within a business when coworkers stop initiating blame, and instead all work together to solve a problem." Another way to authentically comment on someone's post is to thank them for posting and ask a follow-up question. Such as, "Thank you for sharing your service with us. I didn't know there was an emotional connection for individuals who have a problem getting rid of stuff in their homes. Can you explain a little more the emotional connection there? I'm curious to find out more." Last but not least, if you are very interested in creating a good connection with someone, ask them to set up a zoom call, or even meet in person if they live in the area. That way you can meet someone face to face and get to know them on a much deeper level. 

Although, not everyone that you interact with is going to be pleasant and happy. Some individuals might leave you negative feedback, but there is still a way to create a connection with that person and respond professionally. Those people also need to be seen and heard, even if you don't agree with what they are saying. At least acknowledge their presence and let them know that you appreciate the time they took to give feedback. As a small-business owner myself, I find it so important to act professionally, but also remember that my goal is to establish relationships, not just sell my product or service. I want my audience to know that they are heard, no matter what their feedback is. Also, if you respond to negative feedback cleanly and constructively, others who follow you will see your response and how you handled the situation. There is power in that as well, and can potentially create a connection.

Although social media can be superficial at times, I do believe it can be a valuable asset to truly network and establish genuine connections with others. If you're wanting more tips on how to represent yourself and your business on the internet, then check out my other post titled 4 Ways to Be Authentic on the Internet and Why it Matters.