Many people I talk to, particularly those over a certain age, scoff at the idea that there can be any true relationship with the folks you meet online.
A few of my friends had to be dragged kicking and screaming to LinkedIn. Almost every job seeker I’ve suggested sign up for Twitter says, “That’s not for me.”
Really, not for you?
I know many people, myself included, who have developed valuable professional and personal relationships with people they met on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Several years ago, I sent a personalized LinkedIn invitation to someone in the career field I hoped to meet. Being local allowed us to arrange lunch. We hit it off immediately. She helped me tremendously with a big project I was working on. A few years later, I was happy to provide a reference.
Another trusted colleague became a friend after we met on a Twitter chat. We got to know each other little-by-little online before taking our relationship offline. Our relationship developed over-the-phone and later when we were able to meet in person.
Today, both of these women are great friends as well as professional colleagues.
There’s no reason that people you meet online can’t become trusted colleagues and even friends. The secret is to develop the relationship by taking it offline.
One of the drawbacks of meeting people online is that they may live across country. But, this shouldn’t be a deterrent. An easy way to build a relationship is by setting up a time to chat.
Hearing someone’s voice and sharing a laugh or two is a great first step to developing an offline relationship. Supplementing emails phone calls every few months can help strengthen the relationship.
If you’re lucky enough to live locally, follow your phone call with a face-to-face. Nothing replaces meeting someone in person, preferably over a good meal. If you don’t live near each other watch for opportunities to meet.
Conferences and conventions provide a chance to meet online connections who are in the same industry.
Facebook is another way to take your online relationship to another level. While you may want to begin with a few phone calls to make sure you want to develop this further, being Facebook friends provides a peek into people’s personal life.
So the next time someone suggests that the connections you make online can help you professionally and personally don’t roll your eyes. When you work to develop relationships with the people you meet online, you may be surprised where they lead. It might lead to a potential employer or a treasured friend.