THE BLOG
12/23/2014 09:17 am ET Updated Feb 20, 2015

Twitter and Friendship

For me Twitter and new friends have gone hand-in-hand from the beginning. And I'm not just talking about gaining followers here--I'm talking about true connection, forming relationships and making things happen. I've never "bought" a single Twitter follower for any of my profiles, yet I've amassed over 700,000 followers to date (and I've been active since Q4 2008). How did I do it? By making a conscious effort to connect, converse, and add value always with an eye to building relationships.

Three things are most important for anyone who wants to be successful using Twitter for relationship building:

Being available (or at least having the appearance of availability) 24/7.

Constantly producing and curating content to attract those who don't know you or may feel reluctant to reach out.

Being genuine, authentic and open to conversation.

Yes, it takes commitment. You have to make yourself available for interaction, and you need to have a good content plan for sharing. But if you have a strategy for taking care of both of those, and a little discipline, you'll be successful. I love the Twitter platform because it's fast, it's easy, and it fits into my busy schedule. I'm a single dad on the go--constantly traveling for business and spending as much time as I can with my two teenage daughters. So I'm always looking for ways to connect and stay connected easily with my personal and professional network... and in a way that scales. For me Twitter allows so many to not only interact and engage with you but also for the lurkers (who are the vast majority) to do so vicariously through your engagement with others.

Since social media has exploded on the scene our networks and spheres of influence have mushroomed. In an instant we can connect and be developing relationships with thousands of people across the globe. That's a huge communication shift. The removal of physical limitations in human connection is a two-edged sword, however. Yes, it means we can connect and converse with more people, but it also means we have less one-on-one time with them. Sit-down conversations are a luxury and we guard our personal time jealously. Unlike the full-fledged conversations we used to have in face-to-face interactions, in today's world a quick outreach and reply becomes the basis for relationship building. We've learned to accept a Tweet and a response as a conversation versus the time-consuming ways interactions occurred before 140 characters.

"But Ted," you ask, "Doesn't the sheer volume of social conversation on Twitter and the "truncation" of our communications there tend to degrade human friendships?" It doesn't have to. I can easily listen for engagement opportunities and respond on the fly in Twitter, which accomplishes two goals: interacting with a friend, and delivering content and engagement to my followers. Twitter makes conversation easy, spur of the moment, and accessible... and allows the masses to be a part without actually adding to the conversation. It's a good place to start a conversation, ask a question or jump into the fray on an ongoing topic. It's also a good "jumping off" platform where you can make an initial exploratory contact with someone and then take the conversation to another channel to deepen the relationship... or find the time to meet face-to-face as I often do. How amazing is it when you finally meet someone in the flesh, and you hug it out like old friends?

And no... you don't have to sacrifice sleep to see the true value of Twitter. Today's tools make it easy to listen around the clock and be strategic about engagement. And that's the kicker... if you're into social just to get in front of people and blast marketing messages at them, you're in for a big disappointment. The true value of any social platform is in the human connection, and Twitter is an excellent place to facilitate that connection; to search for conversations and reach out to new people with like interests. Use it as a listening platform and a launch pad for facilitating conversation. Use it to share thought-provoking content and help people by "being human" there. Just as you would in a face-to-face networking situation, introduce people to each other. Be there to answer questions. Ask questions yourself. Wish someone a happy birthday or congratulate them on a success. Look for opportunities to converse.

Once conversations get started on Twitter there's no telling what fruit they'll bear. Yes, it takes some effort, forethought and dedication--but so does anything that's worthwhile. The more I Tweet, the more I am in the mind's eye of present and future friends, which means more opportunities to build and nurture relationships. For me the end game is always Return on Relationship, and I keep this in mind always... Relationships are like muscle tissue; the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.

Welcome to the 'Age of Influence,' where anyone can build an audience and effect change, advocate brands, build relationships at scale... and make a difference in the lives of others.