Turning Virtual Connections Into Actionable Relationships

In my debut post earlier this month on Small Business Trends, “Why Networking in Person Still Matters,” so many people commented their agreement and successes about networking in person, face to face. As a followup to this, I wanted to talk about relationships from the virtual entry point, and how powerful this has been for me, too.

Recently I read a networking article in a business publication that posed the question:

“Are virtual relationships real relationships?”

I can tell you that there are several opinions about this depending on who you ask. Those who do not spend much time engaged online and on the Web think that comparing the two types of relationships is ridiculous.

Those who are engaged and invested online as an integral part of their daily business will tell you that those “virtual relationships” are the very ones that have led to some of the most valued relationships they have made in life and business.

I can only share with you how my social platforms and many of the virtual connections that I have made on them have turned into what I call “actionable relationships.” What I mean by this is authentic, real relationships we start on the Web that we turn into mutually beneficial ones through action. If I let connections just stream by without sending a message, commenting or picking up a phone, then what’s the point? Community and tribes are built on commonality.

This past year through my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogtalk Radio platforms, I have met and developed amazing connections nationally and globally that are leading to strategic partnerships, referrals and strong support communities.

Here are five key ones that come to mind:

Tory Johnson WomenForHire, SparkAndHustle, ABC’s Good morning America Workplace contributor. We met on Twitter and Facebook, and I am an advocate for her events. I attended the inaugural Spark and Hustle conference in July 2010 in Atlanta. She is one of the profiles in my upcoming book, provided the cover quote, and chose me to speak at her Orlando Spark and Hustle event in May.

Anita Campbell – Founder of this site, Small Business Trends, Anita is one of the top women in business to follow on many key lists. She has been a guest on my radio show, will be speaking at my Women’s Business and Leadership Conference, and I am writing some articles for her site.

Andy Robinson – Expert Executive Career Coach and Founder of CareerSuccessCommunity. we met on Twitter and LinkedIn. I have had Andy on my radio show several times; he was a keynote at one of my leadership events, and is an active referral source and support community for my career focus.

J.T. O’Donnell – Founder of Careerealism. We met on Twitter and LinkedIn.  I now write for J.T.’s site, have had J.T. on my radio show several times, J.T. did the foreword for my book,  and we are presenting the 100careereducators.com Summit in partnership this year.

Dan Schawbel – Founder of the PersonalBrandingBlog. Dan and I met through other virtual friends on LinkedIn and Twitter; he invited me to join his blog team and write weekly.

How did this happen?

Here are the things I do to make these relationships happen and keep them growing.

  • Reached across the virtual space to make a personal connection through the social platforms, e-mailing, phone or getting together in person.
  • Researched, explored and developed the synergies and potential collaboration we had.
  • Demonstrated integrity and shared humor.
  • Made the effort to connect and network them with others.
  • Supported their brands, causes and expertise through my network and communities
  • Thanked them for supporting me consistently
  • Acknowledged their actions that benefit others

The answer to the question, “Are virtual relationships real relationships?” is a huge, resounding YES.

Virtual is:

Where amazing people are spending time. . .
How we are connecting and finding each other. . .
A huge bridge in a big world to meeting people you may have never had an opportunity to meet anywhere else. . .

Go make five key virtual relationships into actionable ones this week!

Who are some of your virtual to actionable success examples?

Did I mention. . . “Turning virtual connections into actionable relationships is not only real, but fun!”


Deborah Shane Deborah Shane has been recognized as a Top 100 Small Business Champion and Top 50 SMB Influencer (Dunn and Bradstreet 2015). She is a career transition author, personal branding and social media specialist. Deborah's book "Career Transition: Make the Shift" is available through all major book sellers.

10 Reactions
  1. I’ve found that solidifying your relationship with a face-to-face meeting is one of the best ways to get to an “actionable” level. The beauty of virtual connections is that when you do meet the conversation is natural because of the common ground that you already share.

  2. Yes for social media experts, but not so much for others.

    I’m glad its working for you, but I’m still not sold on the idea that virtual relationships have reach the tipping point. This is still a new and vibrant field with lots of room for growth. Also consider the generational factor there are many of the earlier generation who’ll never adopt this format of interaction and hence will never be reachable.

    Its not all its cracked up to be, not yet for everyone. For Social media communicators, who are by definition 100% involved its a great tool in-fact, to not use it makes you a failure by definition, show me some examples outside the social media network and I’ll listen closely.


  3. Michael, aka, Dr Slime..Thanks for your comment and I totally agree it’s all got generational implications and the generations do approach this sometimes differently.Imagine though reaching out to let more people know about your cartoons and artwork through virtual platforms? They are tools meant to make the world just a tad smaller. It’s working for me because I work it. Try working it and see what happens.

  4. Whether virtual or face-to-face, a relationship is real. There are different degrees of connection and preferred methods of contact. Some like email. Others like phone or video calls. Others like face-to-face. Maybe some prefer letters? The preferences aren’t necessarily generational. I prefer to find out person by person.

    The online world allows us to build and stay in touch with a larger network. Since face-to-face is the most expensive and least scalable form of contact, it’s reserved for the most important interactions — the ones most likely to lead to action.

  5. Promod, thanks for your thoughtful comments. There certainly are degrees of connection and preferred methods of contact. How exciting and interesting that we can find each other and communicate in so many ways. Here we are on a blog!

  6. Hi Deborah – thanks for putting this post together. People are missing a great opportunity when they don’t take the next step to take virtual relationships offline and actually meet. We have been able to make some really great connections through Twitter, and whenever we are in their area of the country we try to make an effort and connect with those people.

  7. Allison, thanks for your comment. It is a “next step” for sure. These connections to relationships take time, and effort. They can have great impact and long term benefit to anyone’s life and career. Please connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, so we can do that too!

  8. Deborah, thanks so much for sharing success stories of virtual relationships you’ve made that have had an impact. I think that you are absolutely right that it varies depending on circumstances. 85% of my work is done virtually so it’s only natural for me that virtual relationships have a different perspective. I have some that have developed into “real world” connections while others are still entirely virtual but have discovered that it is the work that is put into maintaining the relationship that makes it real…not the degree of digitalization.


  9. Hi Holly..Thanks for your comment, especially from your ‘virtual’ point of view. The rules are the same. You still have to reach out and develop the relationship either by phone, skype or in person, but a virtual relationship can be extremely effective if that dimension is blended.