Not so long ago, we referred to a crowd of strangers as a sea of faces.
For brands, this sea was much more than a mass of unknowns. This sea held promise, and the savvy marketer would bait his hook and cast out his line.
It was an era of billboards and advertisements, of broadcasts and images. It was an era where marketers could stand apart from the crowd and hope to reel in their target consumer.
Today, brands can no longer fling forth a message and hope that it hooks. The sea is much more savvy.
Today, people want marketers that care. Marketers that connect. Marketers that invest in their customers and clients.
People want relationships, and savvy brands know that the heart of modern marketing is in the cultivation of those relationships.Build a relationship that will last with the customer, try to stay away from snatch & grab marketingClick To Tweet
This becomes a challenge for those of us that engage across the islands of social media. We don’t encounter a sea of faces: we engage a swarm of Twitter handles, Facebook pages, and Google Plus profiles.
So your approach has to adjust. You have to be able to adapt to a world that craves relationships amidst a medium that creates detachment.
Luckily, there are some scientific findings that may help level the playing field. Here are five data-backed principles to building relationships on the web.
Any qualified social media professional will tell you that profiles with faces do better than profiles with brand images.
The evidence for this is not merely anecdotal. In March of 2014, a collaborative study run by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs found that images with faces are 38% more likely to drive engagement. The same study also found that photos which include faces are 32% more likely to draw comments.
Two months later, a study published by Princeton changed the game. That study looked at how faces impact first impressions, and it found that a photo’s context shaped the first impression it created.
For example, the style of photo you would expect on a dating profile is different than the style of photo you would expect in a political campaign. One is geared towards fun and sexual attraction, while the other is designed to communicate focus and a down-to-business attitude. The wrong photo in the wrong context consistently resulted in a poor first impression, even when the comparison photo was of the same person.
Key Takeaway: Use a face on your profile photo, but make sure it is appropriate to the message you want to communicate.
2. Demonstrate Trustworthiness
The heart of any relationship is trust.
Trust is a fickle thing. It is never simply given to you, and it can be taken away with a single misstep. Trust is something that has to be earned.
In 2003, Roy Lewicki and Edward Tomlinson published their findings regarding key elements of trust at the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado.
Among the more notable findings are what they identify as the three dimensions of trustworthy behavior:
- Ability. This refers to the individual’s demonstration of knowledge, skill, or competency.
- Integrity. This refers to how well the individual adheres to principles that the “trustor” considers acceptable.
- Benevolence. This refers to how well the individual demonstrates concern for the welfare of others.
In other words, if you want to earn the trust of others, you need to demonstrate that you are capable of performing in your field, that you do so in alignment with shared values, and that you genuinely care about the welfare of those you serve.
Key Takeaway: Be good at what you do, and be good to others when you do it.
3. Demonstrate Gratitude
One of the easiest skills to overlook in establishing connections is the simple act of gratitude, but it has surprising results.
In 2012, researcher Sara Algoe from the University of South Carolina looked at the impact of gratitude on relationships. The study found that couples who communicate gratitude not only felt more connected on the day they conveyed that gratitude, but also on the days which followed. In other words, that simple expression drew people together and continued to connect them together.
The benefits did not stop there. Gratitude connects people together, but it also improves your own positivity. That positivity has an enduring impact of its own, as we shall see in a moment.
Key Takeaway: Take a moment to communicate gratitude.
4. Be Positive
It is easy to see how emotions spread when you engage others face to face. A smile and a scowl are very different experiences, and they drive very different reactions.
But what about the superficial emotions communicated over social media?
As it turns out, these are shockingly contagious.
In March of 2014, a group of researchers from the University of Namur looked at the impact of emotion communicated across Facebook.
The researchers took a novel approach. They looked at data from millions of Facebook users and matched posting behavior to weather patterns. They focused on those experiencing rainfall at the time of their post, and found that the poor weather directly contributed to negative emotional states.
Then, they looked at the impact these posts had on their followers. The negative emotions triggered by the psychology of weather conditions led to increased negativity among their followers, even though they were not experiencing the same conditions.
The rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain, but its effects can be felt globally. Emotions spread, even over social media.
Key Takeaway: Be positive. Your emotions are contagious.
5. Practice Generosity
Last but not least, practice generosity.
As it turns out, generosity is not a selfless expression. The practice itself is beneficial and correlates with an increased sense of happiness.
It’s also good for business.
In fact, the practice is so good that Forbes recommends it as a dominant business practice and Relationology identifies it as a fundamental characteristic in authentic business relationships.
More than that, generosity is essential to building any relationship. Why? Because generosity communicates value. It communicates to the other party that they are worth investing in. It also tangibly demonstrates that you have something of value to give.
This isn’t about bribing people. It is about communicating value through actually providing value.
Key Takeaway: Invest in others. Practice generosity.
Marketing is no longer about broadcasting a message.
It is about investing in people. Building relationships. Establishing lasting connections.
- Be trustworthy.
- Be grateful.
- Be positive.
- Be generous.
And start building relationships that matter.
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