THE BLOG
10/30/2013 06:14 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2013

5 Ways People Build Successful Relationships on Social Media

I get this question a lot.

"What makes you so successful on social media?"

People want to know if there is a secret formula I follow or special tools I use? They want to know where I get my content and how I decide what to post where and when? They ask me about my advertising budget and my analytics and dozens and dozens of other detailed questions.

I think it is a lot simpler than that. As the name implies, social media should be, well, social. I NEVER forget that. That means not using it like you would a magazine ad or a billboard. It means engaging in two-way conversations. It means listening long and hard to what others are saying. And of course, it also means contributing your thoughts and view to the discussion.

Set let's do an experiment. Quick, in 30 seconds or less write down the three people (besides me) who you follow or admire in social media. They can be top level industry experts, or somebody especially influential in whatever field you work. With these people you have written down in mind, tell me if they do not exhibit most or all of the following characteristics:

1. They're not know-it-alls.

You know what I'm talking about. We all follow people who have an answer for everything, who love to talk about themselves, and who rarely listen before contributing their input to the conversation.

But do you really feel like you can have a relationship with someone like this? Of course not. When it's all about them, there's no room left for you.

Successful marketers know they don't know it all. They're humble, and know that even if others consider them an expert, there's always more to learn.

2. They ask questions.

They know that social media is all about dialogue, so they're keen to ask for feedback from their fans and followers. Instead of assuming that they know what their customers' pain points are, they ask them.

Some people are afraid that if they ask for feedback, they'll be seen as weak or indecisive. I'd argue that the exact opposite is true: by asking for feedback, you're demonstrating that you care about what others think and want, and that you're willing to do what it takes to meet those needs.

3. They reach out to others.

People who are successfully building relationships using social media know they can't just sit back and wait for things to happen. They aren't content to just let others 'like' or follow them. They seek out others in their niche to follow, and participate in conversations initiated by others (instead of only taking part in ones they themselves have started).

They're also always happy to share or retweet valuable information shared by others... even their competitors (gasp!).

4. They provide meaningful content.

Providing unique and meaningful content via social media is not only a great way to provide value, it's one of the best ways to build trust. Sharing other people's content is great, but it will never set you apart as a leader in your niche.

Make a point of creating informative content geared to your audience via blog posts, Facebook updates, Instagram photos, and tweets. The more value you provide to people, the more they will trust you and want to engage with you.

5. They have a passion for the people they serve.

Authentic relationships on social media can only be made when you're passionate about the people you're engaging with. You can try to emulate care and interest in others, but if it's not real, you'll only end up getting burned out.

Passion is something that can be faked, but it's also easy to spot. If you have a passion for helping others, this will come across in everything you do on social media. In the same way, if you're "faking it," this will inevitably become apparent, and people will stop trusting you.

When it comes down to it, building relationships on social media is about truly listening. It's about taking part in the conversation, not trying to control it. It's about dialogue, not pushing a message.

So, now let me answer the question directly. What makes me so successful in social media? I build relationships, ask questions, reach out to others, work hard to provide meaningful content, approach every day with a sense of service and have a massive and authentic passion for what I do. There is no formula and, you, the wonderful social media community I am blessed to be part of, provide the magic.

Who do you know on social media that's great at relationship-building? Who should we be following? Share below!