Magnetic Personality

In a world where so much interaction takes place online, how do you build meaningful connections with potential clients?

It’s a question that educator and business communications expert Natalie Klun has pondered on behalf of all manner of small business owners. Klun has examined the way people communicate in today’s world and studied those who’ve been exceedingly successful at building online communities. What she ultimately discovered was a formula built not on the latest, greatest technology but on time-honored principles of relationship-building. People want to connect. People want help with their problems. People are searching for trusted resources.

Today’s most successful networkers are those who can use modern tools, like social media, to offer solutions. They become magnetic, drawing others to them rather than continually inserting themselves into prospective clients’ lives.

“Nurture relationships and demonstrate the value of what you provide in a way that people self-select to connect with you. And be consistent. The winning strategy is always built on consistency.”

Natalie Klun

To become more magnetic in your online networking, Klun recommends an approach that can be summarized by three elements that are central to virtual relationship-building:

1. Impression. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Consider how to position yourself online so that when you meet new people, they are encouraged to connect with you. How can you communicate who you are and what you do but also identify who you want to connect with?

2. Interaction. Treat social media the way it was designed, as a tool for social connection. “How should we interact socially, knowing there’s a natural process of getting to know people, building a relationship, and establishing trust?” asks Klun. “Social media makes it easy to become familiar with people, but it’s the daily routine of interacting and showing interest in others that yields the benefits.”

3. Influence. Develop a content posting plan that helps establish you as a valuable resource. “We have to be mindful of what we’re creating and sharing,” says Klun. “Nurture relationships and demonstrate the value of what you provide in a way that people self-select to connect with you. And be consistent. The winning strategy is always built on consistency.”

To impress, interact, and influence online, Klun drills down into the specifics that online networkers should embrace:

  • Demonstrate expertise. If one person is asking a question, chances are that many other people are wondering the same thing. Establish yourself as an expert by answering those questions and demonstrating the value you can bring to other people’s worlds. “People think they need all these accolades to be seen as an expert, but in reality people are drawn to you when you show up consistently and genuinely try to help,” says Klun. “When you can demonstrate your knowledge in a specific niche, then you position yourself as a trusted resource in that niche.”
  • Focus on what you love. Find the parts of your work that you enjoy the most and focus on them in your online networking. That will help you be more genuine, and your enthusiasm will come through in your commentary.
  • Pick one. When it comes to social media, Klun recommends concentrating your efforts on one platform, two at most. Ideally, this is the platform where you feel most comfortable interacting. Avoid the temptation to blanket the Internet with your outreach efforts. It’s exhausting, and as a small businessperson, you simply don’t have that kind of time. “It takes time to build rapport and connect with people, and if you try to spread yourself too thin across too many platforms, then you won’t have time to make those connections,” says Klun. Be hyper-specific about who you want to connect with when offering your advice, and focus on building relationships with those people.
  • Communicate what makes you unique. Show up ready to talk about your specialty and how you can help people—not in a salesy way but with the genuine intention of helping others. When you communicate in this way, it allows you to be authentic and focus on your craft.
  • Go for quality over quantity. Try to build high-quality relationships versus attracting every prospective client under the sun. Establish a daily habit of nurturing those relationships and allow them to grow over time.
  • Keep your eyes on the prize. Treat these interactions as a system designed to achieve a specific goal: building new, high-quality relationships.
  • Remember your purpose. As a photographer, you preserve memories for people. Don’t just approach your online networking as a business; think about how you bring purpose into the equation. Consider: What do you really offer to people? Then talk about it. “We get so stuck on running our businesses, making a living, and we can lose touch with our purpose,” says Klun. “But when you can truly feel the purpose behind what you’re doing, that gets you through all the difficult parts of your work and inspires the consistency that is so important.”  

Jeff Kent is editor-at-large.