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In today’s world of social connectivity, where personal and professional relationships are often born through social media, it can be easy to think that simply being a ‘connection’ or a ‘follower’ means you have a relationship. I’ve spent the past three months settling into a new role developing an online recruitment startup, building virtual relationships with a diverse group of business leaders. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far in how to build and maintain relationships online:

• Before sending a connection request, be specific as to what it is about the person that has interested you and why you want to connect, and articulate this succinctly. You will have a much higher chance of your request being accepted if the context is understood. First impressions count, so check spelling and grammar.

• Once the connection is made, follow up immediately. Thank them for connecting, explain what your ideal next step is, for example a conversation to learn more about a product or company. Show that you haven’t connected simply to increase your network! If I receive a connection request from someone I don’t know, I’ll ask why they connected and how I can help.

• It takes two - so consider what value you can bring to the relationship and offer this. For example, do you have relevant connections that could open doors for them? Your generosity will help the other party feel good about themselves and they’ll be more likely to want to help you.

• Get stuck in! Don’t be a bystander, if you see a conversation you have an opinion on, or can help, make your voice heard and get involved. Share pictures, articles and other content that fits with your personal brand and of value to others.

• Show your support for your most valuable connections by consistently sharing their content and recommending their services among your network. It will be noticed and appreciated.

• If you’re finding a relationship is slow to build, remember that the online world (like our offline life) also operates in a complex living system, where timings, context and roles can all influence individual behaviour. Don’t assume someone isn’t interested. When their world synchronises with yours, it’s the right time.

Enjoy making your professional mark on social media. I look forward to seeing you there.

Joanna Jacobs is a career and talent coach