Many people are pretty bad at building relationships online. Why?
Because the Internet gives off a reputation of scalability. Like people can forget about all the business basics and reach thousands of people without effort...
So when they do cold outreach to people, they jump straight to what they want, and worse, they make it sound like you SHOULD get their help.
It is quite funny.
Some of you have taken my free email course, Making Twitter Friends, to learn a bit, but there is still so much to talk about on this topic.
The Internet doesn't make making friends easier! I'm 100% sure about this.
Even though we'll likely never meet each other in real life, this doesn't change a single thing about human being. This means to make friends online, you have to do what you do offline.
Let's take a real-life example so it is easier to know what I'm talking about:
Let's say you're going to a gathering
Imagine you're going to a gathering hosted by a friend. You don't know anyone but you're open to new experiences, so you're going!
At the gathering, you pick the friendliest looking person and start to have small talks. You two talk about schools, hobbies, career aspirations, what happened last weekend etc. Two more people join in and there are lots of laughters. Nice!
Someone suggests to go to a party next weekend together and everyone is like "I'm down!" Then someone needs to go to the bathroom and the group breaks off.
You're now feeling very good and especially confident. You spot this cool looking person at the other side of the room. You walk up and say "Hey, a bunch of us is going to this party next weekend, do you want to join us?"
Shocked. This person looks super upset and walks away. You're thinking "What is going on?"
That's the story. Trust me. When I was younger, so many people walked away from me. This is how I learned about this.
This person who walks away from you is likely thinking "Such a creep!" because you have an "ask" (request) right away before you two get to know each other.
What's the difference between the 2 interactions in the story? One is slowly warmed up and natural, the other one is aggressive. When you progress too fast, it signals bad intention.
As I said, building relationships online is the same as offline, so I came up with this 3 levels to help you understand how to warm up a relationship:
Obviously, this is a general rule of thumb. Depending on the person you approach, you can possibly get a yes if you ask for a video chat right away. Some people will say yes.
But generally, if you skip the levels, your rate of success is lower.
I know. This is something that some people are naturally better at and some people struggle a lot. I also have no hacks to help you learn this quickly. But if I can go from someone who got a ton of the "walk away" to who I am today, I think you can too.
The one word I want to give to you is "slow". Take the slowest approach when it comes to interacting with other people.
How to approach an "ask"
As entrepreneurs, we all have so many things we want to ask for help from others. If you understand the approach, you'll get more "Yes" for sure.
I'll use myself as an example again. I run the Public Lab community and every month, I host 1-2 guests for our Ask Me Anything sessions. It'd be crazy if I tell you I know all these guests. Often times, I don't.
If I just say "Can you be my next guest?", you bet many people would turn me down. So what do I do?
I come up with a list of people I think will be great guests at Public Lab. I follow them, I check out their work, I read their content, I send them messages getting to know them, I find ways to be helpful etc.
Then in 1-2 months, I reach out again and as a friend, I ask if they can share their experiences with my community members. People are generally nice. Especially if you help them before, they will return you a favor.
But one thing here, the fact that I'm intentional about relationship building doesn't mean I'm not genuine. If there is someone I haven't heard of and after going through their work, I don't think they're a good fit, I don't pretend to praise them, hoping they'd be my next guest.
For one, I cannot fake my feelings. But more importantly, doing things you don't mean it is just going to harm you and the other person. Don't do it, you won't go far.