The Twitter Relationship Stairway

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All things Twitter is upon us. You can do a simple search on Google and pull up a huge number of entries on Twitter or you can go to one of your favorite blogs and search for Twitter posts to reveal numerous articles. There is definitely a fascination with micromedia and this particular network.  I must be fascinated too, as I seem to be using it as one of my main sources of communication these days.  Will another type of network launch and fascinate me…sure, but for now, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for relationship building on Twitter.

Because I have my TweetDeck open all day and I’m constantly checking to see what’s going on in my community, I thought it would be interesting to categorize my fascination into what I experience in terms of friendship.  For me, friendship is carved into a few types of relationships.  I’m sure there are more types and I’ll leave that up to you to add in your own levels. My levels of friendship appear to fall in five buckets: Casual Friend, Taker with Good Info, The Giver, The Give and Take Friendship and then the Trusted Confidante.  Each level of relationship building on Twitter has potential to move up a level and provide more value from your engagement.

You can even visualize these buckets as a Relationship Stairway (which we should all want to climb) because at the top of the stairs, we are rewarded with an experience or our ultimate engagement (whatever that means to us either personally or professionally…what are your Twitter goals).  Let’s define the steps and the behavior as we climb the stairway:

  • The Casual Friend: Don’t underestimate your casual friend on Twitter.  This person may be the friend who gives you a quick “Good Morning” with a smiley face or a comment about their day.  You could chat about the weather or something that you share in common (perhaps a great cup of coffee or expresso).  You can learn quickly the person’s location, their general mood and get a brief glimpse into their perspective.  When you get the quick good morning, there’s an opportunity to turn it into an everyday conversation, whether your dialogue occurs at certain times of the day (morning, noon or night).  Look at your casual friend’s profile, check out their tweet stream, and make a quick visit to their blog or website.  Finding out who they are and what they do can lead to new opportunities. I’ve had casual conversations turn into dynamic conversations, where I learn new tips, tools and information.  Casual conversations can also equate to bigger opportunities including interviews, great blog posts and overall really good information that could only come from a simple “Good Morning” on Twitter.

  • The Taker with Good Info: First and foremost, the word “Taker” is not negative. On the contrary this is an important friend! I’ve noticed on several occasions that my casual friends often turn into those who begin to share information with me, in hope that I will discuss it further with my community.  They will frequently ask me to review their blog posts, articles in the media, news releases, product launches, ideas for projects, and even research for thesis writing (the Take part).  But, these friends help me when they ask for my assistance in reviewing and discussing their information with my community. I’m more than happy to share their information and material because, if the information is really good, then I know my own friends and followers will find tremendous value.  I welcome these friends, but in order get to the next step, this relationship must become more reciprocal; both parties would then be asking reciprocal friendship favors by giving and taking information for their networks.

  • The Giver: The Giver is a special friend. This person doesn’t ask anything of you, they simply find you interesting and naturally want to share your information with their friends.  The Giver could also be the friend who follows your blog and when they find valuable information in one of your posts they automatically share it with their network.  Other examples of the The Giver include: the person who frequently retweets things that you say and the articles you share, they mention you on #followfriday and they listen carefully to your conversations because they like to interact with you.  When you have a Giver as a friend you need to find ways to move this relationship to the next step and become a reciprocal friend.  Meaning and value to both parties may lie ahead.

  • The Giver and Taker Friendship: This is the level of friendship where the relationship becomes equally balanced and both sides feel a great deal of benefit.  For me, after I share the information from my friend “The Taker with Good Info” I notice that this person suddenly is tuned into what I’m doing within my community and will take the time to then share my blog posts, comment in my community, retweet information (so their friends can see what I’m doing), join other initiatives that I’m involved in where dynamic discussion continue, introduce me to other people who they think I will find interesting, and start to make really good connections for me (and I do the same for them).  These are also the people who become my friends in other networks and the give and take is natural and reaches an entirely different plateau.  Best of all, from these reciprocal relationships, I’ve been introduced to new business opportunities. These friends have the potential of becoming your Trusted Confidantes.

  • The Trusted Confidante: At the top of the stairway is someone who you will trust with sacred information.  Together you can safely bounce around new ideas, share concepts, learn more about yourself, receive positive feedback as well as criticism, create innovation, share personal information, and the help and the trust is always balanced and appreciated.  You are not only using DM with these friends on a daily basis, but you are now emailing back and forth, on IM or a Google Wave.   Then, suddenly, your friendship morphs from virtual to the physical reality.  You continue your conversations at events and conferences that you both attend or you are having meetups every chance you get.  Of course some friends are on the other side of the country or the world, so the telephone or Skype works too.  The sky is the limit with your these friends.  They have your best interest at heart, as you have theirs.  This is your trusted advisory board on topics and information that you couldn’t find as easily or as readily available, if it didn’t stem from a Twitter conversation.

When you visualize your own Relationship Stairway, you can ask yourself:

  • How do you think your Twitter friends view you on the stairway?
  • Have you taken the initiative to climb the steps a little higher with some or most of your Twitter friends?
  • How do you figure out which friends you want to move up the steps quickly, and have you analyzed your Twitter friends lately?

Conclusion

Twitter is a powerful and effective tool and your online interactions will become stronger and more pronounced because of it. It is important that you get the most out of Twitter and that you consider the Twitter stairway as an extremely effective approach that will get  you to where you want to be.

This guest post, The Twitter Relationship Stairway, originally appeared on the PR Expanded blog on January 15, 2010.

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Deirdre Breakenridge is the CEO of Pure Performance Communications . A 25-year veteran in public relations, she teaches at NYU and speaks internationally on the topics of PR, marketing and social media. She is the author of Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional and blogs at PR 2.0 Strategies .

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