How to build impactful relationships online
In a community with a thriving online presence, we can’t ignore that the internet is reshaping the way we network and build relationships. Do you remember the stigma around online dating when it ﬁrst became popular? Now more than ever the internet is bringing people together – and not just through dating apps but for networking too! Our sense and deﬁnition of community is rapidly expanding as we buildout more and more ways to connect individuals through technology.
As part of the Rising Tide Team working in Community Support, I often hear from our members how incredible networking online can be for creatives if it’s done well. Based on our experience in growing our community online these last two years, here are a few insights on how we can turning internet networking into a meaningful way to build strategic and impactful relationships.
1. There Are Humans Behind Computer Screens – Yes, I am going to state the obvious! If you wouldn’t want to say it to someone in person, it doesn’t belong online. Information spreads quickly and permeates internet communities like wildﬁre. It is important to recognize that what we share online can have a lasting impact on far beyond our intended reach. Remember that all conversations online are public to some degree, which means that what you choose to share online can aﬀect others that you didn’t even know were reading.
This doesn’t mean everyone needs to suddenly avoid disagreements or conﬂict on online forums. The beauty of community is the way in which each member has a unique perspective and background to bring to the table. If you want to engage with someone in a healthy discussion, it is absolutely possible to do it on the internet! However, you have a responsibility to recognize that there is a human typing out every word you read, no matter how much you disagree with them. Measure your responses against whether or not what you are typing is something you’d never dream of saying out loud. Treat online exchanges with the same courtesy you would if you were chatting face to face, and you’re bound to start building relationships.
2. Assume Best Intent – I work remotely, and this is a mantra I have had to engrain in my brain and heart over the last year! When your primary communication with someone is through online means like emails, you miss out on all the little context clues you would get from networking in person through tone, inﬂection, body language, etc. If you operate from a place of assuming best intent ﬁrst, it will be easier to navigate the conversation and make you less likely to jump into operating from a defensive and emotional place. This ties back into the point above – when you assume best intent, you’re more likely to measure your responses on the internet against what you would likely say in person.
3. Internet Friends Are Real Friends Too – Don’t discount the power of technology bringing people together. I suﬀer from a rare neuromuscular disease and it can be isolating – I often miss out on the “in person” part of friendships and have had to rely heavily on technology to stay connected. A few years ago, I discovered a thriving online community of people like me who were also suﬀering from the same disease. Many of us have never met another person with this disease! This online networking of sorts has drastically improved my quality of life,and I have stopped distinguishing between “internet friends” and “real life friends”.
I have seen a parallel between my experience in the chronic illness online community and the creative industry. Now more than ever we are expanding our networks outside of our immediate geographical areas, and it is helping us create a thriving creative economy through shared experiences and circumstances. Those online connections are real and important!
Technology can make us feel more isolated if we let it. A few tweaks to perspective and approach can turn the internet into the most relevant and signiﬁcant networking tool we have today.