Modern relationships with customers, business contacts, friends, and even dating partners often start and develop online. Developing real relationships using virtual strategies is a multi-billion dollar industry. While there are endless tools, techniques, platforms and philosophies for building relationships through cyberspace, they all require you to create content. You still have to know what to say, when to say it and to whom, to successfully build relationships online.
Content, of course, varies based on the type and stage of the relationship, but creating relationship-building content that engages its recipients requires many of the same elements and is more formulaic than you might think. So when opportunities for relationships are on the other side of your blinking cursor, make sure your content checks the boxes below:
- It’s about them. Relationship-building content is about relating. Your content should engage, add value, and invite more interaction — it shouldn’t be all about you. Your readers are being bombarded with more content than they can consume, so the first thing they’re looking for is relevance. The better you know your audience, the more relevant you can make your content.
- It’s emotional. Relationships are built on emotions, and humans rely on their emotions to make decisions. You’re probably familiar with emotional branding – companies appeal to consumers’ emotions and aspirations to sell their products. Big brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, and Mastercard are masters of it. Similarly, your content should tap into an emotion. If your goal is to build relationships with your readers, you might want them to feel excited, optimistic, and curious. Don’t start writing until you identify what you want your readers to feel.
- It builds trust. Trust is essential in relationships, and your content helps you establish it. Relationship-building content adds value, solves problems, and puts your readers’ interests ahead of your own. When it comes to your expertise, don’t worry about giving away too much for free. The more freely you give, the more trust you build with your audience, and that’s worth way more than a few missed revenue opportunities.
- It tells a story. Hearing someone’s story, especially if you identify with the protagonist helps you feel like you know them. Content that shares a story — one that your readers identify with — invites connection, makes your content memorable, and helps establish yourself as a person your reader wants to know. Think about your story structure and make sure you make your reader, not you, the hero in the story.
- It’s progressive. Content that builds relationships progresses. As you build trust by providing value, you can ask your readers for more engagement and information. The more you know about them, the easier it will be to build a relationship using content. Your content should get more personal as you get to know your reader better. You wouldn’t have the same conversation with someone you just met that you would with someone you’ve known for years. Your content should be the same.
- It’s genuine. People can spot fake. If your readers are baseball fans, but you don’t know or care much about baseball, don’t fake being a fan just to make a connection. Find another common interest or enlist the help of a baseball fan to write your content. You want to connect with your readers but only if you can do it authentically.
- It has a call-to-action. Relationships are not a one-way street. First, establish trust with your readers by giving without asking for anything in return. Once that trust has been established, it’s time to increase your engagement with your readers by asking them to take the next step. Calls-to-action include commenting on or liking a post, providing feedback, giving more personal information, sharing your content, scheduling a meeting, or consuming more content from you.
- It’s consistent. Engage consistently. Think about it like you would a dating relationship. If you don’t contact them enough, the other person might think you’re not interested. Contact them too much, you’ll annoy them. Find an appropriate consistency for posting or sending content based on the relationship stage.
- It challenges. Add value, connect, engage, and yes, challenge! Relationship-building content challenges readers to grow. Your content should ask readers to become who they aspire to be (as it relates to you) and give them the steps to do it.
- It makes them want more. When your readers take steps to get more content from you, you are successfully using content to build relationships. As discussed above, give them CTAs that encourage more content engagement in all of your communication. This could be following you on social media platforms, subscribing to your blog, requesting specific content from you, or soliciting your opinion. The key is: your content has to be valuable enough for them to want more. With so much competition, that’s not a small feat; however, if your content checks the above criteria, it will have a much better shot.
Content is a necessary and powerful tool for building real relationships in a virtual world. Use the checklist above to create your content and your words will stand out, your messages will resonate, and your readers will become relationships.