How to Build Amazing Friendships, Not Just ‘Fans’, Online

by Marcus Sheridan

online friendshipsI’ve come to the conclusion that nothing great happens online without friends and supporters. I’m serious about that—nothing. And when it comes to blogging success you can be rest assured that if you don’t have a network of people supporting and helping you out, no matter how great your content is, you’ll forever be a billboard in the desert.

Tough words? Yeah, maybe so, but true. Which is why you shouldn’t simply live by all that ‘Content is King’ talk. Sure, good content is critical, but if good content isn’t read, it’s kind of like that tree in the forest no one heard….Did it really fall?

Catching the Vision of True Community

As I’ve mentioned again and again here on TSL, I WASTED an entire year of blogging due to my poor networking online. Because I didn’t take the time to build relationships, growth never occurred, and boy was that disheartening.

Then, once I started to catch the vision of community and connections, I thought my biggest goal was to simply build fans and followers. And although fans and followers are a big deal when it comes to online success, I’ve now reached the point where my biggest priority has changed again. Today, my greatest focus is that of building true and lasting friendships with amazing people.

So how does it happen? How do we go from gaining fans to true ‘friends’?

Who Have You Helped Today?

A few months ago I wrote what turned out to be a one of my most popular posts ever on TSL about how to network online and build your community. In the article, I discussed various stages, or levels, whereby bloggers can build relationships with others, with Level 5 being the highest—the stage by which we move past the simple comments and links and truly look for ways by which we can help, serve, and impact others.

As an example, the past few weeks have been some of my most enjoyable as a blogger. Why? Because I’ve made it a point to make at least one phone call every day to a blogger/business owner that has filled out my contact form and asked me a question. Instead of a generic and quick answer to all the questions I receive, I’ll choose one each day to call personally via phone, and often times the reaction I get on the other end of the line is one of shock and amazement.

I don’t say this in an effort to sound like some great guy out to save the world, I’m simply saying the reward of taking a few minutes of my day and making a true personal contact with someone that completely doesn’t expect it is incredibly rewarding, both to the receiver and the giver.

As I mentioned in that post a few months ago, the most important question we can ask ourselves if we really want to develop a stronger network with rich friendships online is this:

Who can I help today?

So simple, yet forgotten by so many. We’re so busy writing content and doing the networking basics (simple tweeting and commenting) that we never develop a depth to these relationships.

Be Thoughtful

When it comes down to it, we’ve got to be thoughtful folks. That’s right, thoughtful.

  • Thoughtful is when Ingrid from NittyGriddy Blog sends me a book called The Tao of Twitter, completely out of the blue and really without knowing me well, simply because she wanted me to experience success with Twitter, something she knew I’d been struggling with up to that point.
  • Thoughtful is when someone like JK Allen of Hustler’s Notebook takes the time to call me after my first major guest post many, many months ago, and then calls and emails me directly whenever he feels particularly strong about something I’ve written in the months and weeks since (Wow that guy knows how to make a brother feel good!).
  • Thoughtful is when someone like Dino Dogan sends Srini from Skool of Life a BRAND NEW SUITE for his blog world seminar.
  • Thoughtful is when someone like Al Smith of the wonderful new C.A.R.E movement takes the time to send me a long and passionate email discussing how one of my recent articles moved him to action.
  • Thoughtful is when Danny Iny of the great blog Firepole Marketing sends me a business book in the mail because it contains principles related to an article I recently wrote.

Are you starting to see where I’m coming from folks? Yeah, comments, tweets, and ‘likes’ are well and good, but none have the ‘depth’ these thoughtful acts above have when it comes to building true friendships.

Some People are Just Plain Awesome

Speaking of depth, I do need to share one more example of thoughtfulness that will hopefully make as much of an impression on you as it did on me. Just a few days ago, I received a package in the mail from my favorite online couple, John Falchetto of Expat Life Coach and his lovely wife Ameena from Mummy in Provence. To see how they shocked me with their kindness, please watch the following video because it’s dang awesome, and with it only lasting 130 seconds, I promise it won’t be too long, but well worth it:

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So that’s the challenge folks. Ask yourself each and every day: “Who can I help?” Be thoughtful. Think outside the box. Look to build depth with your online relationships and I can personally testify that you’ll not only build fans and followers, but you’ll also find yourself building friendships that will last a lifetime.

Your Turn:

I’m curious to know some of the kind and thoughtful acts you’ve been a part of in the blogosphere. Has anyone touched and surprised you before? And as you look at your networking efforts, where do you feel like you biggest struggles are? As always, I’d invite you to be a part of the conversation below…


Oh, and if you haven’t connected with me on Google + or Facebook yet, quit delaying and let’s make it happen!! :-)

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