The power of social media is the ability to form real connections.

Real connections happen when we initiate with others; they respond; we have real conversations, offline or on. There is an added depth when we take conversations offline, even more when we meet people face to face.

Real connections CAN begin in 140 characters volleyed back and forth, synchronous or asynchronous.

I love the instant gratification of sharing tweets in the moment, when you hardly have time to hit the “enter” key and you see another reply is waiting. Those quick conversations are a way to make friends fast; they can be the start of something good that can grow deeper with time.

My friendship with Erin Schreyer began that way, on the evening that we discovered at least fifteen things we have in common, including the years we attended college on same college campus.

A few well asked questions, a few life details shared: a connection grows.

We don’t have to talk on the phone, share emails, or meet in person to have a real connection.

If we want to build rich, deep relationships, we need to allow others to see who we are. We also need to take the time to see others clearly, as they are.

The best way to deepen and enrich your relationships with others is to give people a glimpse into your life. This is true for relationships started through social media channels and it’s true in our face to face relationships.

Here are some ideas of ways you can let people see who you are:

Share pictures. One reason Facebook is such a powerful platform is because of the sharing of photos. I can see your family gatherings, your recent vacation, your child’s first day of school, your pets, your home. I love moving Twitter friendships to Facebook so that I can share photos easily.

To build an even stronger connection, consider doing what my friend Thabo does: send pictures directly.

An unforgettable moment that deepened my friendship with Thabo: late one afternoon, he sent me an email. I had been working, head down, fast-paced, all day.

When I opened his email, which included words of encouragement, I saw a picture of his evening routine at home in South Africa: candles, a view of his yard with lush emerald trees, a fence and a pool beyond. In that moment, he transported me from where I was to somewhere else entirely. In that moment, he brought me to where he was.

Share stories. Stories are a powerful way to let people see into your life. You can share them in writing or in conversation. When you do, you will help people know you better.

Share real moments. Just yesterday, I had a Skype conversation with David Greer. A few minutes into our conversation, my youngest daughter burst into my office. She sat down squarely in her small white chair and demanded my attention. I asked David to hold on for a moment and shifted my attention to her.

She had just come in from outside. She was cold and she wanted to go back out. She didn’t want the sitterΒ  to help her get warmer clothes. She shrieked “no” β€” several times. She hid in my closet and refused to budge.

I was acutely aware of David on the line, listening to our exchange.

Though we weren’t using video Skype, those moments allowed David to see me in three-dimensions, uncensored, as I am.

As you seek to build real connections, look for ways to let others into your life, to let them see you as you are. Invite them to share their lives with you, as well.

Tell me something! What ways do you share your life with others? How can do you allow others glimpses into your life? What is your favorite way to take online relationships offline?