Whether you're a marketer, a business owner, a freelancer, an influencer or just someone who accidentally stumbled upon this article, today I'm going to challenge you to do one thing: Begin thinking of social media more like a conference and less like a cold call.

What do I mean by this? In addition to the sales, marketing and advertising potential, the true value of social media networks is networking (can you believe it?). If you're effectively connecting with the 'movers and shakers' in your industry on social media, then being active on it will, already, be worth your time.

It's interesting that we'll spend thousands of dollars on tickets to industry conferences, but then conduct cost-benefit-analysis of whether it's worth it or not to spend 15 minutes replying to a couple comments or to spend 15 bucks boosting a Facebook post.

If you're networking with fellow industry professionals, then social media is truly a conference at scale. You can direct message a 'top dog' in your industry on Instagram or LinkedIn without ever changing out of your pajamas. It's amazing.

Too often, you'll see brands or individuals treating social media like they would a cold call. If they put in a certain number of hours and don't get a specific amount in sales immediately following that work, then it wasn't worth their time at all.

This mindset has got to go. Plain and simple. Instead, focus on cultivating relationships and adding value on social. Interact with others in your niche. Share their articles. Respond to their Tweets. Provide thoughtful commentary on their work. Tell them your story and how you discovered them.

In short, be human. Connect. You're not going to land a sales pitch on the first attempt all the time, and that's totally okay.

What to do now

Now that we've cleared the air, here's some things you can do to develop and nurture meaningful relationships with others on social media.

1. Join relevant Facebook & LinkedIn Groups.

2. Utilize the Direct Message feature on Instagram to connect with others. For more on this, read this Medium post by Gary Vaynerchuk.

3. Like, comment, and share other's work consistently.

4. Make your "master contact list". Create a list of 52 individuals in your industry that you would love to connect with. Each week of the year, make it your mission to connect (in a non-creepy way) with one of those individuals on your list.

5. If you're looking to connect with high-profile individuals in your niche, then leverage platforms that are either emerging (Medium, for example) or those that are declining (Twitter, for example). There will be less competition than platforms that are more established.

Published on: Jul 28, 2017