The Flaw of Relationship Building on Social Platforms

The Flaw of Relationship Building on Social Platforms

Building online influence through amassing connections on social media platforms (alone) is a flawed plan. I’ve often compared relating to people on social media platforms to meeting friends in a coffee shop or bar.

When you go to a coffee shop, you can meet someone you already know or you can strike up a conversation with a total stranger.

You can meet several new friends during the course of an hour. You can learn from them, laugh, and then walk away and never see them again.

Coffee shops are comfortable, and bars are a fun place to talk, but you are unlikely to build sustainable relationships unless you take the relationship farther and exchange contact information with a plan to meet again.

I’ve had many prospective clients tell me they don’t have an email list but they have hundreds (or thousands) of connections on LinkedIn. While a connection on LinkedIn is more lasting than a casual encounter in a coffee shop,there’s still a step missing.

Being connected on LinkedIn is a powerful way to access influencers while growing valuable relationships and a strong network,  but sharing content or sending a message on LinkedIn is still far inferior to sending someone an email message directly, sending a text message, or calling on the phone.

And last week’s news that LinkedIn initiated changes to how users could download data (changes that could take up to 72 hours) and this week’s news that they’re reverting that change, bolstered my conviction that any significant work anyone wants to do online MUST be on their own domain.

Check out  the headline on Fortune: LinkedIn brought back this popular feature.

Why is it popular? Because people see value in their connections. They want a way to contact connections easily — outside of LinkedIn, the same way that you’d want to exchange business cards with a kindred spirit before leaving a great coffee-shop conversation.

The only data you own and control online is the data you create or collect on your own domain. The only contacts you can reliably count on are the ones who have opted-in to your email subscriber list or the one whose contact information you can easily access.

Go ahead and find/form as many relationships on LinkedIn as you can. It’s a powerful platform. Adding connections on LinkedIn will exponentially increase the reach of your network.

And don’t stop meeting people in coffee shops, airport bars, or conference happy hours.

But don’t make those casual encounters the end of your relationship building and don’t grow your connections on LinkedIn as the primary focus of your influence building strategy. Doing so will put you at risk of loss of data or the ability to connect, if (when) LinkedIn changes their platform again. Instead, use LinkedIn as a place to connect and focus instead on providing content of value that will inspire people to subscribe to your email list so they can stay connected to you

Social media platforms are a convenient place to find and form relationships, but if you want to have a deeper, more connected relationship, you have to take the relationship out of the coffee shop, finding a way to stay in touch with a real-life friend who matters.

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About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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  • Great points Becky. Here’s the lesson in six words, “Be a Landlord, Not a Tenant.”

    • Stan,

      Long time no talk. Thanks for the succinct summary. Be a landlord, indeed! 🙂 Hope you are well!


  • Hi Becky

    I enjoyed the post and agree very much with your perspective. Although we live in the Social Age, where various media play their part, they cannot replace the real interaction between humans that adds value to their interaction.

    Usually this happens for me best when it’s face-to-face. Nowadays that might just as well happen over Skype or through a Google+ Hangout. It is the initial connection, added to in often small and unremarkable ways that builds the connection into something of real worth.

    I co-wrote a book with 15 amazing people, some of whom I know much better than others, over the internet. Why? Because I could and because I trusted in them and they trusted in me. Why? Because, through a series of interactions that took place over a period of time, we each demonstrated our worth to each other. It was all sealed for me by actual, physical face-to-face meetings with two of my favourite online friends and colleagues, LaRae Quy and Barry Smith, nearly two years ago.

    This proves to me that these relationships can grow and endure. You need to work at them like any relationship … and you need to give as well as receive. All this makes the relationship, the connection real and valued! That way it will endure.

    I greatly value our relationship in that way too and I believe we have both added great value to each other in that connection. Long may it endure is my wish!

    Have a brilliant week!

    Kind regards


    • Thank you, John. I value you as well and I hope we will some day meet face to face. Congrats on the book project!


  • You’re so right, Becky – thanks for this great reminder. It’s like having an old-fashioned paper address book (remember those) that you lease from another company. There’s only two words to describe that strategy – “STU” “PID.”

    As a result of the Berrett-Koehler Authors Coop Marketing Workshop in San Francisco earlier this month, I’m beefing up my e-mail list and switching platforms (from Constant Contact to Robly, in case you’re curious).

    Go deeper or go to the coffee shop!

    • Thank you, Flip.

      I don’t know Robly. You’ll have to fill me in on its benefits. Or maybe you can guest post here and share with our readers?

      Talk soon.

  • The cool thing about social media is that it’s a platform and to me, that means it’s a place to start and a place to come back to. I’ve met more people through social media than I ever would have by phone, email, or in person. Becky Robinson and the Weaving Influence team spiked my interest from enthusiast to evangelist.

    Having said that, I have had people reach out to me by phone just to talk and get to know me better. I had one social media friend invite me and my husband to dinner when he found out we would be in Florida. I almost got to meet Megan Constantino as we drove through West Virginia. Crappy roads prevented that from happening.

    Google hangouts are very common in my social media circles. I am invites to at least one a week and often more.

    Social media is a platform. It’s the beginning.

  • Well said, Becky. I couldn’t agree more. Too many people throw themselves at the mercy of others’ whims. Whether LinkedIn or Facebook or Pinterest, they are only a starting point for a true relationship.

  • Becky,

    This post is very appreciated. It’s surprising the number of professionals who still treat LinkedIn Connections or Twitter Followers like collectibles. Social platforms are wonderful for opening up access to an audience around the world. By using these platforms to open up conversations with new people, we should be thinking about the long game of moving the relationship out of just social and into more interactive and personal communication. Social media is critical but we have to think and, more importantly, act beyond it.

    Thanks again for the post!

    – Julie

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