Due to the fact that we are a Healthcare Marketing and Communications Agency, many of our clients are highly regulated when it comes to implementing social media programs, but that’s not to say we can’t BUILD relationships for ourselves with others in our field.

When I graduated business school, trade shows and industry networking events were the way to meet peers in my field. Now, I have hundreds of “friends” from around the globe that I speak to on a routine basis who have become trusted allies.

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Here are some ways that helped me develop reliable business relationships without EVER having met the person face-to-face:

 1. Research the Person – Most social media outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to see or cross check mutual friends. Use this function to see if you have any common friends who you can refer to in future conversations. Many of my friends have “vouched” for me as I was developing relationships with people I have not yet met.

2. Happy Birthday – Most social outlets alert you to the date of a person’s birthday. Send a friendly note on that person’s birthday. Everyone likes to hear/read Happy Birthday and be genuine! This simple 30-second task was the start of an annual six-figure piece of business for me. Don’t knock it until you try it.

3. Response Time – Don’t leave friends hanging! If they took the time to ask you a question, give a response, even if it is, “I’m travelling right now, but will research this and get back to you ASAP.” I still fall victim to this and try to stay atop of my communications. One thing I don’t want floating out in the industry is that I don’t get back to people in a timely fashion. I believe we are all trying to become better at this.

4. Time – I like to see my online business relationships for a good three to six months before I recommend someone for other business. A dear friend of mine, whom I have never met, is a practice management consultant. We have chatted, emailed and posted with each other for over three years, yet have never met in person. I recommended her for some business with a client of mine and my instincts were correct – she was a superstar. She also opened her network to me and I have even greater access to Key Thought Leaders in her field.

5. Topics to Avoid – Especially in open forums on social media, think twice or thrice before you commit to a public post that might showcase your personal RELIGIOUS or POLITICAL beliefs. Sometimes it is hard to refrain from commentary, but do your best to avoid direct confrontation with someone you have not met. Trust me on this one; it is easier to make a friend on social media than it is to shake an enemy.

6. Take it to the Next Level – Try to share travel schedules with your online business friends and have intent to meet them live! You surely will have things to talk about and meeting live is a great way to keep us human!