Make Real Friends in 140 Characters or Less: Twitter Relationship Building


Twitter has had an interesting and varied impact on our life:

  • On one hand, it has never been easier to reach out to (and hear back from) anyone (from long forgotten friends to celebrities)
  • On the other hand, relationships have never been so short-term. In most cases, especially if you are very active and get followed a lot, you generally connect, interact and move on…

Too many people will interact with contacts in a way that just provides a short term connection – and it’s no wonder, since the nature of the network itself: At the end of the day, all you are supposed to do there is to chirp a lot (probably with not much objective behind that).

Still, another great feature of Twitter is that it’s just as good as the way you are using it: It would behave differently in different hands.

That being said, yes, it can be a great tool for building long-lasting relationships – Not that *any* connection will last forever… If you are doing your job right, only about 20% of your contacts will “stick” no matter how much effort you put into that.

Just accept it. Most people won’t be interested in taking Twitter contact to a next level. Some of them are too busy, some of them are just not interested in you… Still without those 80% quick ones, there will be no 20% long-lasting contacts. That’s just pure stats.

If you are looking to form some solid relationships on Twitter, here are some tips.

Don’t Just Follow, Interact


It is all well and good to follow someone on Twitter. Not only does it show them that you are interested in what they have to say, but it creates an immediate link between you and them. The problem is that it is a link that is often one sided, and not everyone who you follow will follow back. Obviously, this isn’t a good way to start off a networking relationship.

You should be engaging with them on a regular basis. Comment to their tweets, retweet what they have to say, and address them directly. Try to strike up a real dialogue about something in your industry, or just that you know you have in common. You might even look at their bio to see if they mention a hobby, and then engage them on that.

Actionable tip: I like going to every other week to see which interaction I might have missed due to working too hard…

I also like categorizing my contacts with Twitter lists and adding them to Tweetdeck to better follow what they are saying. I like the “Alerts” feature of Tweetdeck that sends updates from my lists right onto my desktop and lets me follow the conversation while still working (to only jump in when I have something worthy to say!)

Above Make Interactions Meaningful

Make Interactions Meaningful

With 140 characters the line between saying *anything* and adding something valuable to conversation is very much blurred. It’s also very subjective, so the list of tips below is just my own opinion (what is getting on my nerve can actually be pleasing for someone)… so take it with some grain of salt:

  • If you do #FollowFriday, mention one person at a time and add why he/she is actually that cool (Who cares about long list of usernames in #FF update?)
  • Don’t just say “thanks”, mention *why* you are thanking them (Twitter conversations are hard to track, so make sure your friend knows what it’s about: Save friends’ time!)

Below MIM

  • Make it a good habit to include a short sweet comment in traditional RTs. This makes your tweet stand out!

Viral Mom Tweet

  • If you are replying to a tweet after a while, make sure you include the (short version of) the question to make it easier to understand.

Ann Tweet

Follow Back

On the other side of the coin, it isn’t just about following someone else and then communicating with them. You should also follow back those who choose to follow you. Of course, you don’t have to do this with everyone, as it can dilute the quality of your Twitter feed. But if there is someone who you can imagine building a valuable connection with, make sure you hit that follow button.

Just in the tip above, this creates an immediate link between you two. This one is already two-sided, since they have shown equal interest. Begin to communicate with them regularly, and cultivate that contact.

Actionable tip: Here’s a list of tools that let you find influencers who *already* interact with you in some ways (follow you, tweet your content or talk to you directly). It’s a good start for finding good people to follow back!

Follow Back Image

Take It Off Twitter

Once you have began to engage, you can see about it extending beyond Twitter and into other forms of media. For example, you could ask about a potential blog post on one another’s sites. Perhaps see about any affiliate opportunities, or a collaborate on a project. Use them as a professional contact with more traditional forms of networking.

One of my oldest tricks – #beeverywhere illusion – has been all about taking relationships off one social media and connecting to them elsewhere. This way, you appear to actually be everywhere by letting your (Twitter) contacts see you again and again around the web.

Do you have any tips for building long lasting relationships with contacts on Twitter? Let us know in the comments.


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