Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Four Building Blocks between Relationships and Influence

Influence flows from our relationships. It can flow both ways. Each of us influences others and we allow ourselves to be influenced by others as we learn and grow personally and professionally. If we expect others to hear us out, then we too have to be willing to suspend what we know long enough to listen and consider ideas that may be quite different from our own.  That doesn't mean we abandon what we know although that's possible. It simply means we are open to the ideas and experiences and wisdom of others. Like my friend and colleague Stephanie Nestlerode says, "Wisdom is wisdom, no matter the source".  

I've been thinking a lot about why individuals and organizations would want to actively engage in social media. From my perspective social media offers a way for people in prevention to not only inform and increase awareness but to also listen, learn and respond to people. Social media offers a creative outlet to host conversations that connect us in ways that establish a foundation for more.  I see four building blocks between the bookends of relationship and influence.  While our offline, face-to-face relationships are absolutely essential, our online relationships (and networks) are equally important in today's social media rich environment.  As I think about it, these four essential building blocks actually apply to both online and offline relationships.

Connection: Just like in any community or organization, making connections with people is the first step toward establishing relationships and it helps people feel a sense of belonging.  Connections lets us see possibilities for partnering, cooperating or collaborating that we might otherwise miss.  Without connections we find ourselves withdrawn, isolated and removed from the very community to which we would like to belong.  In social networks, our connections help us stay up with information, resources and news as well as provide insights into our work and the community. Our connections open doors to additional people and groups to which we can belong and serve.

Visibility: We can't connect with others if they can't see us (or we can't see them).  While a website used to be enough for an online presence, that's no longer true and hasn't been for quite some time.  Websites are essential but insufficient. Just like putting a sign out in front of your business helps attract customers, you'll also want to do far more if you want your business to thrive e.g., join local groups, support local causes, etc.  It is as important to be visible online as it is to be visible offline in the community. Being visible online opens possibilities for connecting and engaging with people.

Relevance: When is the last time prevention was the hot news of the day -- the lead headline in the local news?  What does it mean to draw relevance?  I got a chance to learn more about this from Dr. Paul Evensen who does an awesome job with this (podcast here).  He asks, what are the top four hot news items in your community that most everyone is concerned about? What is the relationship of prevention to these concerns? How do we keep our work relevant with all the competing sources?  We can't really expect people without prevention experience to make the connections, right? Take a few minutes to listen to Paul as he offers an example of making prevention relevant to the hot local news of the day and then try the activity yourself.  Prevention is our work and the onus is on us to draw the connections or be increasingly ignored, overlooked or tossed aside as irrelevant. When we can connect to the hot issues, hashtags and trends we can make the case between those things and prevention, strengthening our community's understanding.

Engagement: While outreach was once our aim, social media has shifted the landscape so that engagement is the ultimate action and metric.  We can be on social media, posting several times a day but if what we are posting isn't engaging, if people aren't liking, commenting, replying, retweeting or otherwise showing interest and taking action, then we've missed the mark. I find this is one of the most interesting and creative part of social media -- discovering the content, tone and perspective that will entice people to engage with us on the topics we care about.  Engagement takes us closer to influence.

So now what?  Here's a set of questions that may help.

  1. How connected am I (or are we)?  Just in sheer numbers, how many connections do you have? How are they growing? From an organizational view, do you have one person or one team that takes care of your social media or do others across the organization get involved to support and create a ripple effect?  
  2. How visible are you? Where? Is it working?  Is your organization still using email and print-based newsletters as your primary communications method? Ouch! Do people see your posts regularly? How many? How often? How recent? When you search on your name or organization, what comes up? Is it recent? Do you like what you see?
  3. How relevant are your posts to local and trending topics?  Are you able to make a case for prevention related to the hot news? How do you support others who do work that is relevant to yours?
  4. How much and what type of social media action are you getting? Simple likes or compelling comments and shares?

Let's talk. 
What needs to be added? What questions have helped you with building relationships?
Where has social media enabled you to establish relationships and exercise influence?
What obstacles have gotten in the way? How have you overcome them?

1 comment:

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