Ramon Ray, Publisher of Smart Hustle Magazine: I recently had the pleasure of speaking again with the Chief Marketing Officer of Brand Innovators, Ted Rubin, on the importance of building personal relationships in your social media channels, and what the concept of ROR (return on relationship) truly means.

He offered up some insightful tips on making those digital connections and identifying the social IDs of your target community. Ted observed that while thinking about how people truly connect on social media, he found himself asking, “How do I make people feel like I am really paying attention and I care?”

Digital Expression

Social cues in a physical world are quite evident. When you are speaking with someone, if they are staring off or fidgeting, it’s easy to see they aren’t paying attention. When people do care about what you are saying, they maintain eye contact, listen, and repeat your words in acknowledgment.

In cyberspace, most consumers already assume a business isn’t available—especially when it comes to social media. It’s very easy to give cues that you are not paying attention on social media, simply by remaining unresponsive (whether you are actually attentive or not).

What many businesses struggle with, is the ability to express when they are truly paying attention. Ted says, “I talk about relationships a lot and over the years I have had a lot of people ask me about how to build relationships online— and the one thing that comes to the surface is the importance of being present when you are talking to somebody.”

It is critical to make people the center of what you are doing. It is about them—not you. While writing his next book, Ted focused on finding a way to digitally “look people in the eye.” In order to maximize return on relationships (ROR), you have to discover a way to reach people in an authentic manner.

What’s in a Name?

“The best social media book ever written was in 1936,” Ted says. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, is a book Ted Rubin insists applies to forming business to consumer (B2C) relationships on social media. The book often refers to the importance of announcing a person’s name when forming a relationship.

In face-to-face situations, it can be challenging to refer to people by name. In some situations, you may not have heard or remembered what they stated. On social media, there is no excuse—everyone’s digital footprint is immediately available.

Calling your community members by name shows you are paying attention. It’s about the quality of the conversation, over the quantity. A person’s social ID spans further than their name, however; it is also how they want to be known online. If you can tap into that, you will have a much greater return on relationships (ROR).

“Yes, I could probably touch more people in a day if I don’t waste time with pleasantries, if I don’t say: ‘how was your day?’ But if you do, I promise that the loss in numbers will be well made up for with the quality of conversations, connections, and the engagement you’re creating; to your brand, to your business, and to your overall sales.”


Tips for Staying Connected in a Digital World

I asked Tim what his thoughts were on ways a business owner could digitally “look into the eyes” of their community members. The following were some of his tips for staying connected in a digital landscape:

1. Don’t Take Notes—Tweet

Ted claims that many of his books were derived from this process. Rather than writing down his thoughts as they came, he would Tweet them out. It was a means of getting instant feedback, as well as engaging his community. “Did people like it? Did they share it? Did they have commentary on it? Did it make sense to them? My books come out of these concepts. ROR is the hub of everything I do.”

2. Find Something Remarkable

He doesn’t mean it has to be extraordinary, but investigate the bios and social media platforms of your community, and find something to remark about. It could be a new picture on Facebook or an article on LinkedIn.

Show people you are paying attention to them, by demonstrating something you took the time to do. Be specific when commenting back. Don’t just say “great blog!” Tell them what you liked about it.

Look for interpersonal connection points where your lives may intersect, and point those out. “I see you ski…I just spent some time in Aspen with my kids.” Making your interactions personal and authentic shows people you are involved and that you care.

3. Give Back to Your Community

Every day, Ted serendipitously shares someone’s tweet and makes a comment on the content. It’s a means of giving back, but more importantly, it is a great way of demonstrating you are an active community member. As Ted explains, “It’s not about the person who’s things you’re sharing; it’s about the people who see you’re sharing it.”

There is no science behind staying connected in a digital world, it just takes a little more effort. Automation can kill your message. Although marketing your brand is important, building your reputation is how you can get there.

As Ted says, “A BRAND is what a business or person does…a REPUTATION is what people remember and share.”

Ted Rubin insists he is not an expert, but rather refers to himself as a “practitioner” or “strategist.” That’s because he rarely asks people to try or do something, he hasn’t already tried or done himself. He reminds people that overnight successes are rarely overnight, and it’s important to remain patient when connecting with people online.

When I asked him for some final thoughts, he offered up a challenge:

“Everyday for the next 30 days, pick up the phone and call somebody that you haven’t spoken to in awhile and say hello—and ask if there is anything you can do for them today. I guarantee by the end of that month; you will see a difference in the way people everywhere hear about you, react about you, and the way you feel.”

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