Twice this week, I’ve had conversations with people who partnered with people they met exclusively online. This lends to the debate and discussion on the effectiveness of social media and sustained relationships. How do you solicit, engage and trust someone you’ve never met beyond number or random 140 character messages? This is one of the reasons why it is so important to not only be genuine in your interactions on social media (to naturally attract those who are like-minded), but to dig a little deeper beyond the tweets and posts to get to know those you follow and who follow you.
Whether online or offline, relationships start with conversations. It’s those conversations that begin to spark and inspire ideas. It’s those conversations that lead to never thought of opportunities and referrals. It’s those conversations that provide you with what you need when you and where you least expect it. You can hide behind your profile and hope that the people who see it will instantaneously want to do business with you, let alone trust you. Your profile is merely a calling card. No more. No less. How often are you cultivating social media for relationships, not clients? The entrepreneurs and micro business owners below, share their experiences with not only doing business with virtual associates, but also starting and growing a business with virtual partners.
John Huntinghouse, ldssmile.com: The best online collaboration that we ever did was working with another individual to help drive traffic to our website. We have 50,000 fans on Facebook at the time and they had 80,000 fans. We did a partnership where we split the revenue shares from the website from the traffic he drove in from his Facebook page. I have since bought the page completely from him as he wanted to move on and now we drive over a million page views a month to our blog.
Nate Hanson, sumry.me: In October of 2013, my eventual co-founder Sebastian Kade opened Sumry up to beta testers. He lives and works in Sydney. I was in San Francisco at the time, but have since relocated back to Portland. As one of Sumry’s first beta testers, I connected with Sebastian through the Sumry platform. We used it to get to know who the other person was. A year later, he asked me to join Sumry as a co-founder. Born out of our story, we made Sumry a great tool for people to not only introduce themselves online, but also learn each other’s story. Even now, a year and half later, our co-founder partnership is strong as we build Sumry and explore other projects together. We still have not met face to face (though we hope to later this year,) but we actually know each other, trust each other, and take care of the other person before taking care of ourselves.
Romy Taormina, www.psibands.com: Years ago when Psi Bands launched, Belli Skincare reached out to us via email to collaborate on some social media partnerships. They were simple exchanges: including each other in newsletters, plugging each other on social media (sharing, liking, re-tweeting, etc.). At the time, we were both start-ups, each supporting one another to collectively grow our businesses. We have never met in person, but we know each other. Over the years, these simple exchanges have evolved. The latest development is our very timely collaboration with Brandperx, a doctor detailing program that will allow Belli Skincare and Psi Bands to collectively reach our target customer: pregnant moms. Brandperx is a program that would be out of financial reach for our company – but with collaboration, we can finance this project. This is truly a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts! The ability to connect online with like-minded brands, and then to grow and cultivate that relationship, is very empowering. In the competitive retail landscape that we are a part of, it’s a necessity that small brands come together to create big outcomes. We depend on it. Our retailers expect it. And everyone wins.
R.M. Willis, burningwillow.wordpress.com: I met my business partner Kindra Sowder via Facebook. We are both authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. We decided to start a publishing house together that we call Burning Willow Press. To date, we have published 4 books, have one scheduled to be released next month and have signed 7 other authors. Additionally, we have 3 full time employees who all live in different states, and we contract out for editors and cover artists around the world. One of our books Power Rises has been on the Amazon top 100 best sellers list in 7 different countries. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but the partnership is still going strong and we continue to build our presence online and increase our readership on a daily basis.
Ethan Rasiel, www.lightspeedpr.com: I spent 15 years in big organizations – 13 years at Edelman and then 2 at Samsung. In late 2013, tired of that grind, my partner and I started our own PR agency, Lightspeed PR, and we have built a team almost entirely through social media. Everyone works virtually. Mostly, I have found people on LinkedIn, which has the very powerful search tools and filters I can use to find just the right person with the right mix of experience and talents. It has been a huge success – we have a dozen clients and a team of about 15 people so far. We are on track to hit a million dollars in revenue for our second full year of operation. Lightspeed handles a mix of tech clients – everything from gadgets to apps to services. There is a risk of course, many of my contractors I have never met in person. Some are duds. But some are rockstars and well worth it.
Garrett Houghton, www.artport.me: As a music student in college and freelance writer, I dreamed of building a web platform for artists to help assist in their professional development and artistic growth. However, I didn’t have the programming skills to code the platform myself. With just an idea and some mockups, I went online to find a freelance developer for the project and actually ended up hiring a distributed team of three–a designer, frontend developer, and backend developer. Between the four of us scattered across the globe, and across four different time zones, we were able to build ArtPort: a digital
portfolio-building platform and collaboration network for artists.
Working in a distributed team that only connects through chat and email has been an interesting experience. You learn how to communicate as effectively as you can with little context, but even still, you learn the working habits of your team (one of the developers on the team exclusively works in the middle of the night) and eventually, you can find a working rhythm that traverses oceans and language barriers. We are still working hard together on ArtPort and are excited for what is yet to come for the platform.
Amanda Orson, EngineerJobs.com: Shane Pike, the CEO at EngineerJobs.com, and I had been good friends on Twitter for years. Neither of us can recall exactly when we started talking (before 2009), but we’re both sure it was over football. In Fall 2012 he was looking for someone with content marketing experience to come aboard and begin creating valuable content for readers (engineers). At the time I was a self-employed marketer with my own business, but knew or had relationships with a wide network of other Internet marketers in the US. Shane wanted to hire someone in Atlanta and asked for my assistance (by sharing it with my network) to find someone.
After about a week of emails back and forth, he decided to make the leap and expand EngineerJobs.com not in Atlanta – but as a distributed company – and asked me if I’d personally like to join. Upon accepting I became the first remote employee, then living in Philadelphia. We now have 6 full-time employees across GA, NY, CT and OR. The reason this company exists in its current, distributed format is because of our relationship, begun on Twitter, bantering over football 6 years ago and a full 3 years before we began working together.
We all have people we’re connected to that we’d love to know better. What are you waiting for? Before you send a tweet, share a tweet or read a post go through your list of connections and send a direct message or email and engage them in a real conversation. Make the effort to get to know people you are connected to. Who knows what happens next? If we’re not connected, reach out to me at @simplicityinc
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Micro Business Therapist™ A.Michelle Blakeley is one of Forbes 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter and author of Zero to 60: How to start a business in 60 days or less. Get your copy on Amazon. She helps new and seasoned entrepreneurs align their purpose, principles, priorities and practices for accelerated growth. Minding the gap between your personal and professional life™ Contact her directly at www.simplicitymastered.com