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Are Your Social Media Friends Real?

a diverse group of people staring at their phone as depiction of social media friends

The average Facebook user now has about 338 social media friends, but the average person reports having just around 8 friends in surveys. What gives?

The reality is that most social media connections never go anywhere. Most people have a handful of “real life” friends whom they met through school, work, sports, or other activities that give them a reason to stay in touch.

But online, that connection doesn’t happen as easily. How do you make connections with people on social media when you don’t know anything about them? And how do you build real professional relationships with people you don’t even know?

You connect on the interests and values you share

The first step is figuring out what connects us all: common interests and values. This may seem obvious — we all like pizza and we all want good jobs — but it’s amazing how often we forget these basics. At a professional level, it’s important to focus on the common ground you share with people, and then find out more about their life interests and values.

This is where AI-powered networking apps like Intch come in. Intch matches people based on interests and values, making it much easier to make connections that go beyond superficial interests. 

This is an important part of building real professional relationships online because it enables you to start a conversation that leads somewhere else — it’s not just one-way broadcasting. And because the connections are made through shared interests, it feels more personal and less like work.

Beyond validation-seeking

Traditional social media apps hyper-fixate on the idea of validation, where users get hooked on likes, comments, shares, new social media friends and other forms of social media engagement in order to feel validated.

This leads to shallow connections that don’t go anywhere, and networks that are filled with people you don’t really know. Conversely, if you focus on building relationships based on shared interests and values, then the engagement will naturally come from a place of mutual respect. The connections will be deeper, more meaningful, and last longer.

That said, the connection is just the beginning, and it’s vital to be a value-adder, not a validation-seeker.

At this point, you might be thinking: why would I want to build real professional relationships online? It seems like all the connections I make will go nowhere. The answer is simple: as with any networking situation, if you build real professional relationships online then those connections can turn into referrals and introductions that lead to opportunities — even job offers.

Creating win-win relationships

The key is to focus on creating win-win relationships — not just winning in the sense of getting ahead, but also about looking out for and helping each other.

One of the most successful networking strategies in businesses is to create a culture around “life partnerships.” By focusing on building long-term win-win relationships, you’ll be able to build deeper bonds with people across all levels of the business. And this trust and loyalty translates into better results relative to competitors who focus solely on performance metrics.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here — we already know that diverse teams work better and create better outcomes — so it makes sense to leverage these practices wherever you can. But online professional networks, in particular, can be built or broken based on how they treat their members (and non-members).

You’ll know a win-win relationship when you see one, because both sides want to keep the connection going. For example, if you help someone find technical talent, and they help you find venture capital or raise funding, then both of you win.

Those are the types of real professional relationships that lead to referrals and introductions that can take your career — and more importantly, your life — to the next level. Sign up for Intch on iOS or Android to get started building meaningful social capital.

Frederik Bussler

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