7 Steps: The Evolution Of A Social Media Friendship

I remember back in the day (2009), I wrote many articles about how to build real friendships in social media. Back then; people were skeptical that it could be done. However, since then, we’ve grown as a whole in our knowledge about the complexities and the magic of social media. By now, most people who have been involved on Twitter, Facebook or any of the many other social media sites for a while know that real friendships can be built there, so now the pertinent question has changed a bit.

Instead of asking “Can I really make real friends in social media?” now people are asking “I know I can, but how do I go about doing it?” In response to that question, I thought I would put together a step-by-step list for how I see a single social media friendship evolve and develop. You will see after reading this that it’s really very simple.

Step 1 – Make A Connection

You notice someone and decide you’d like to see that person in your own digital coffee shop a little more. Whether you read a post, saw a comment on Facebook, noticed a picture on Instagram, watched a video on YouTube, saw a tweet on Twitter, it doesn’t matter. You reach out, and you make a connection.  This means you start following them on Twitter, you friend them on Facebook, you comment on their post or photograph, etc.. There are so many ways these days to establish a connection with someone online.

7 Steps To Online Friendship

Step 2 – Reciprocation

The person you reached out to reciprocates your connection by following you back on Twitter, friending you on Facebook, responding to your comment on a blog, etc… This is an important step. Note: You are not building a real friendship with Kim Kardashian just because you are one of her 6.6 million followers on Twitter, and you send her tweets all day long.  True friendship online is a two way street, just the same as it is offline.

7 Steps to Online Friendship

Step 3 – Engagement

Now that the person you reached out to connected with you as well, that means he or she is open to what you have to say. I am not offended by someone who does not follow back on Twitter. If you get offended easily, building online relationships could be more difficult for you. Just go with the flow. You will genuinely connect with those you are meant to be friends with, I truly believe that.

Now you start paying a little more attention to that person. Perhaps you retweet a few of their interesting tweets, or leave more frequent comments on their blog. They again reciprocate by tweeting you back or commenting on your Facebook wall. Note: Engagement is key. You may find it difficult to build a real friendship online if you don’t communicate with people one-on-one. #duh

7 Steps To Online Friendships

Step 4 – Have Patience

I would like to interject here that having patience is important. At this stage in the game, it’s important not to have high expectations. There are some social differences between building friendships online as compared to offline. What I mean is, I don’t recommend you send someone a tweet and then sit at your computer waiting for an hour for their response, and then get angry when they don’t tweet back on your time frame.

People do their own thing online. They are on, they are off, they are mobile, they are at home, they are at work, they are living their lives. You really have to lower your expectations and accept that the person will respond if and when they want to.

For example, I only check my Facebook messages about once every two weeks since I get so many of them.  Sometimes I get messages from Bit Rebels readers, which I always try to respond to. However, if that person expected an answer from me on the day they sent the message, it most likely didn’t happen. I have my own schedule. Everyone does.  You really have to have patience when building your social media friendships or else you will be disappointed frequently.  Again, chill and go with the flow.

7 Steps To Online Friendships

Step 5 – Private Communication

When this step occurs, you know you have a full-fledged social media friendship in the making. This is the step where your interaction jumps off the public time line on Twitter, and continues in DM, or perhaps you start communicating in email. Of course I’m not saying there has to be daily contact this way, but even a small amount indicates a blooming friendship.

The point is, you begin communicating on private channels, which goes just between the two of you. Once two people are both willing to make the effort to communicate that way, then your friendship is officially growing.  I think this may be one reason why most of the people I know on Twitter dislike auto-DMs so much.  It is like a complete stranger wanting to skip steps 1-4 on this list and just go directly to step 5.  It’s not cool.  DM on Twitter was designed as a way for two people to communicate privately, not as a tool to send spam.

7 Steps to Online Friendship

Step 6 – You Start Communicating Like Real Friends

When this step occurs, you know you have a solid social media friendship. This happens when you both talk like real friends, but through social media channels. You comfort each other when you are having a bad day, or you stick up for each other online if ever necessary. You are always there for each other with a joke or a blip or a story about the kids. That person shares personal details about his or her life that would only be shared if you were really friends. You’ve started developing a level of trust now, and you definitely have a real bond.

7 Steps To Online Friendships

Step 7 – You Meet In Person!

To me, this is the most exciting part of the social media friendship dynamic. Sometimes this step doesn’t happen, but when it does, it’s so much fun. This is the step where you get to meet your social media friend in person. Sometimes this is at a tweet-up, sometimes it’s at a conference, and sometimes it’s just when the two people plan it.

Taking your social media friendship into a non-digital world can truly take it to the next level. However, it requires trust and planning on both sides. It requires making an effort on both sides to build that friendship even further. I recently drove 8 hours to meet my Twitter best friend after we had been friends online for almost two years. You can read about that and see the pictures in the article The Proof That Social Media Friendships Are Real. I hope this article has helped anyone that might have needed it!

7 Steps To Online Friendships

Image Credits: [CREATISTA / Shutterstock] [Cienpies Design / Shutterstock] [Scott A. Frangos / Shutterstock] [Dmitrijs Dmitrijevs / Shutterstock] [Supri Suharjoto / Shutterstock] [ra2 studio / Shutterstock] [Andresr / Shutterstock]