Virtual Friends

These days, it can be hard to differentiate your real-life friends from your virtually created connections. I often find myself referring to virtual connections and friends (I call them VCFs) simply as “friends.” This tag (friends) often leads people to believe that I’m discussing someone I know in real-life, or have met face-to-face. However, this is often not the case. Yet I still refer to my VCFs as friends. I actually have a rather large contingent of friends, followers, advisors, and mentors… The majority (by a long-shot) of these people are VCFs that I’ve never met in “real life.”

With this article, I’m going to let you in on my super secret sauce. I’m not bragging when I say, I have more than 22,000 people in my virtual black book (address book). The majority of my connections breakdown as 4,000 in LinkedIn, 3,000 in the Facebook, 12,000 in Twitter, and more than 3,000 in other social media sites.

Many people believe that this virtual community is not worth much (or anything at all). I would argue that this community is every bit as valid as my real-life connections. In some ways, it might be even more important. The main reason I believe this is because on a daily basis I get VCFs who broker additional relationships and help me to build solid foundations with people I never would have had the chance to meet a decade ago.

The caveat is that you must make some extra efforts to communicate (reasonably) and stay in touch with a much larger contingent when you use a virtual community as a resource.

To help with this monstrosity, LinkedIn has really upped the ante by making your contact list much more robust. They have added built-in reminders that tell you when one of your 1st connections has any of the following events:

  • New job
  • Moved
  • Work anniversary
  • Birthday
  • News interview or article
  •  

    All that you need to do is hover over Network on the top menu. Move down the list and click Contact. This will open your contact list with one new very important addition… Now the top three contacts are ones that have one of the above listed life changing events happening to them. After you select one of these people and “congratulate” them, it pops another contact in the top three list. This list continues to update until you’ve patted all of these friends on their virtual backs.

    In addition, there is a new option; which I consider the most awesome (and powerful) contact change at LinkedIn… You can setup reminders to alert you when it’s time to contact a specific person. When you have clicked on a particular contact, look under the relationship tab and find the “Reminder” button and click it. You can now enter a recurring appointment that will alert you to reach out to this particular person. I use this to remind me to stay in touch with friends or colleagues on a regular basis. Let’s face it, in today’s world of having 22,000+ contacts you cannot possibly keep up with 1/10 of them… Using features like LinkedIn’s reminder tool helps greatly!

    Now that we’ve broken the ice and talked about how important social media is, let’s talk about something even MORE important. Keeping up with all of your contacts. *insert sound of fingernails scraping down a chalkboard*

    It is IMPERATIVE that you not only reach out and connect with folks, but also that you make regular (daily… yes, daily) routine messages to touch base and congratulate your VCFs. Don’t over burden them with petty discussions, and avoid barraging them with inundating information. However, when they pop-up on your list of contact events, make sure to at least :like: or say “congrats.” I prefer to add a minor personal message with each contact.

    The tough (and sometimes overwhelming) part of this is that you need to check on your contacts daily. Think about it, if a birthday passes, it is pointless to reach out and wish them a happy birthday. You absolutely MUST login to LinkedIn and/or the Facebook every day and (at the very least) check for birthdays and life changing events. I set aside twenty minutes of each morning to do this daily ritual. Believe me, if you make this effort you will become a genuine friend and valued connection to your VCFs.

    Now that you know to login and check this stuff every day, make sure that you are efficient with your time, and that you don’t waste time on there. You can easily get sucked into tons of time on social media sites reading through posts and statuses. Skip this time waster and be quick. Get in, get it done, and get out!

    Look for another VCF blog article coming soon… We will breakdown making your connections and offer advice on how to hook the more famous and or popular connections that often reject every day average Joes like you and me.

    Please feel free to reach out and connect with me. Here’s a linkable listing of all of my virtual personalities:

    Stalk Me Online

    My Online Blogs and Sites

    Also, a few months back I also wrote a social media post: Social Media is Here to Stay. Please check it out!

    How do you use social media?

    I hope this blog article was beneficial!

    -Vaughn

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    About Vaughn Ripley

    Vaughn is a happily married daddy, author, and CIO. He is an HIV+ hemophiliac, and is one of the longest surviving HIV+ people in the universe.
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    Follow Vaughn on Twitter: @vripley
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    Read his personal blog: HIVLongevity.com
    Visit his web page: www.VaughnRipley.com

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