Businesses are learning that they need to relate to their followers as humans. That means less message blasting and more relationship building. It’s natural for us to connect with people and develop relationships and it can be natural for a brand to do the same. It takes making a conscious effort and being consistent.

Think about how you connect with people, whether that’s on or offline. How is interest developed? How does it evolve into a relationship of trust and mutual respect? How do you keep that connection fresh and growing? These are the type of questions you have to ask as you train your brand to connect personally with followers.

Here are 4 tips for making connections that count:

  • Create the environment.

Wherever your brand has a presence is where your community lives. So whether that’s Facebook, a Google+ group, a forum or another platform, it’s up to you to create an environment that your audience will feel comfortable in and encouraged to participate. Your content creates some of that atmosphere, as does the way you engage and how the members interact with each other. Your community will benefit from good management, monitoring and moderation to keep it on track.

  • Carry on the conversation.

Real people have conversations. Initiate and join in on conversations with your followers. Conversation is back and forth and that’s what you want to see happening between you and them as well as them having conversations with each other. Let everyone get in on the fun and erase the distinction between brand and follower and remember that it’s really person-to-person.

  • Cultivate the relationship.

To achieve a real connection with your audience, you have to carefully cultivate those developing relationships. It’s an ongoing process and even when you reach what you consider an optimal relationship, you have to keep putting in the effort to keep it strong. It’s about being available, bringing value to the relationship and responding to your follower’s needs and interests.

  • Connect the dots.

Let the connection take its natural course. Start with the environment, make conversation and keep growing the relationship. Connecting these dots will create a picture that looks like trust, loyalty, strong community, and a brand that knows how to do social.

Brands are not only identified by how they present themselves online, but by how they relate to their followers. Social success is dependent upon the relationships your brand builds with your followers. Realize that value and grow the relationships by making real connections online.