The Five Phases Of Building Online Relationships

The Five Phases Of Building Online Relationships

Nicola Moras (pictured below) is a social media and visibility expert and author of Visible, a guide for business owners on how to generate financial results from social media and digital marketing. In this extract from the book, Moras gives her top tips on using social to build better relationships…

We build relationships bit by bit, over time. If you want to build a new friendship, you don’t go from not knowing someone to suddenly sharing all of your deepest secrets and thoughts with them. It takes time and incremental additions to the friendship to build trust and rapport.

Nicola Moras

Stephen R Covey talks about this in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He calls it the ‘trust account’ strategy. To paraphrase for you, for every positive interaction with someone you gain one point, and you keep gaining points for every positive interaction. This adds ‘trust widgets’ into your trust account with that person.

When it comes to relationship building on social media, similar thinking is necessary. We need to add value to our audience multiple times in order to gain and retain their trust and attention. I call this ‘value stacking’ (more on this later).

Building relationships and trust online is similar to what you would do offline while attending networking events, dinners or even seminars. Imagine you attend a networking event filled with people you have never met before. I suspect that you would focus on interacting with a few people. You’d start by asking them some questions and they’d answer them. Then they would ask you some questions and you’d answer them. This goes back and forth for a while and you start to form an opinion about that person. You decide if you ‘gel’ with them and if they are someone you might want to have further conversations with or get to know better. (Or not!) You might decide to exchange contact details and connect after the event.

Let’s be honest. You probably wouldn’t want to have lunch with someone who you don’t get along with, so you need to find a way to determine if they’re someone that you want to spend time with. This is where the question and answer conversations become super important.

When we’re online, we don’t have time to interact with every single person we come into contact with individually like this, but time is on our side in another way because we can build trust and rapport by being consistent over time with what we post online. There’s five progressive phases of developing online relationships, which centres on the ‘know you, like you, trust you’ feeling that is essential to building relationships online. Let’s break down the phases.

  1. Don’t know you

This is when you’re not really online at all. You may have a Facebook business page but you haven’t posted any content on it, or perhaps you have a website but there’s just the mandatory ‘home’ and ‘about’ pages. There is no other content for your audience to engage with.

You may be posting quotes now and again but it’s very random. When people go and look at what you’ve put out there, they get the feeling that it’s sporadic and a bit slap-dash. This stops trust and rapport-building dead in its tracks.

You’ve got to be posting more so that you can move your audience through to getting to know you.

  1. Know you

You’re posting every now and again on Facebook or another platform. You may be blogging intermittently. You could even be putting out some free content by way of downloads or checklists.

You may be posting a quote and sharing a blog you’ve written or filmed. You made the decision to be a bit more active and it’s paying off, because it’s enough for your audience to learn more about who you are as person based on what you’re putting out.

They feel like they’re getting to know you.

Example: A bakery posts photos of their cupcake creations and photos of happy customers with huge smiles on their faces when they come in to collect their orders. They might even share a nice post from someone else that resonates with their mindset or values. Their audience then feels safe because they may share similar values and views of the world.

  1. Like you

Your audience – the people following you – are really starting to like you because it’s you who is showing up (thank goodness!) You’re resonating with them and they are getting some value from your content. There’s a value–message match happening at this point in time.

Your audience at this point feels like they really like you. They resonate with the content you’re putting up there. They see elements of your personality shining through with what you’re putting out online and they like what you’re about.

Example: A personal trainer posts content on his page regularly, and because some of the issues his clients deal with relate to food and mindset, he decides to include free content on how to manage mindset and how to make good food choices. He starts building up his profile as an expert by sharing content that solves problems his audience has. This is a value-message match.

A value-message match is what occurs when you are posting content that is of value, which also ties into the message that you’re putting out there.

  1. Trust you

Your audience knows you and likes you, they have probably ‘internet stalked’ you a bit to check out what you’ve put up online, and now they trust you. They trust that you’re reputable and that you know what you’re talking about. You have contributed in some way to their day or their life, and they feel that they can get even more value by working with you at this point. They want your help.

You may think that your job is done when you reach this point, but you’re not done yet. We’ve got to get your audience through to the final phase, which is where a financial exchange takes place. They buy a product or a service from you.

They do this because you’ve been sharing so much in the form of content, images and added value that they believe in you. They trust in what you have to say.

  1. Buy from you

It’s in the transition from ‘trust you’ to ‘buy from you’ that you start asking people to commit in some way to working with you, either by purchasing some kind of product from you or learning from you.

But, remember, you can’t do it on your timeline. It’s got to be on theirs. Some people will get to this phase really quickly, while others may take years. I’ve had people follow me for five years before buying from me and others have purchased seriously high-end program within hours of finding me. This is the long game and the short game in action. And this is where consistency is king.

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Nicola Moras

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