by Jennifer Lumba   | February 09, 2015
As Valentine's Day approaches, it's time to revisit how we build and sustain relationships. Love is a big part of it, of course, but so is authenticity. Dealing with people honestly and showing genuine concern goes a long way in any medium, including online. Here are 10 specific ways to develop more authentic social media relationships:

1. Never auto post. Many tools allow for automatic posting and re-posting of material to your social media feeds. Avoid them as often as you can. Why? They treat your networks like dumping grounds for content, labeling readers as targets rather than people with whom you'd like to build an authentic and mutually beneficial relationship.

2. Start conversations. Once readers see that you're a real person with an authentic point of view, it's time to engage them more deeply. Use search tools to discover what your networks talk about most often. What are the key hashtags? Who leads most of the discussions? Jump into the discussion when the opportunity presents itself.

3. Answer questions. Most of us go online to get answers. Be the person in your network who answers difficult questions, and you won't have to spend much time seeking relationships; they'll come to you for your expertise and generosity.

4. Be honest. This seems obvious but the anonymous nature of the Internet brings out the braggadocio in all of us from time to time. Avoid the temptation. Be as quick to admit your weaknesses as you are to tout your strengths. Come clean when you've made a mistake. You can't build an authentic relationship with someone who doesn't know the real you -- warts and all.

5. Be giving. Here, we're talking about the difference between providing value and showing humanity. Someone in your network is always going to have a need. Often, a word of encouragement is all that's required. Other times, a connection to a difficult-to-find resource is needed. Whatever the case, be a friend and lend a hand if you can.

6. Be slow to unplug. Developing relationships isn't a linear process. You'll have successes and failures. On social media, you'll suffer visible failures that will make you want to retreat. Don't. Instead, focus your time and energy on discussions with whom you've built good relationships and ignore the others.

7. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Authentic relationships are born of authentic interactions filled with truth and emotion. Bring this same dynamic to your social media relationships. Let them know when you're happy or sad, and why. Those who want to engage with you will appreciate that they're getting to know the real you.

8. Use in-person language. Social media has its own code. From emoticons to text shortcuts, speaking to your friends on social media tends to look a lot different than speaking with them face-to-face at a coffee shop. And yet it doesn't have to be this way. Using conversational language adds heft and can help you stand apart in an otherwise short-form medium.

9. Say thank you. Every relationship is give and take. The Internet and social media don't change that. So, when you receive help from a member of your network, show proper gratitude and say thank you. Not only will you stand out for bypassing the mostly manners-less online shorthand but you'll come off as someone worth getting to know better.

10. Be an advocate. There are times when your social media friends will need more than a kind word. Maybe it's a job reference, or help getting the word out for a fundraiser, or encouraging others to check out an exciting new project. Whatever the cause, be a willing advocate. Your thoughtfulness won't go unnoticed.
Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions. Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau's employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at [email protected]