Transitioning Online Connections to In-Person Friendships
Written By Founder Kayla Hollatz
As the last of my bible study members trickled out of my friend’s new home, a few of us stood near the doorway, still chatting long past our end time. We were giving our signature Minnesota goodbye, which can last anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours depending on the company and weather.
While huddled together, my friend Emily asked about hashtags. She didn’t understand why using the pound sign was a thing and if people actually used them.
“Do you remember how I said I met long-time blogging and business friends in last weekend’s trip to Atlanta?” I said. “I met all of those people because I started a hashtag.”
Emily looked at me with wide eyes as did the others. When you venture outside of the online world, you realize how bizarre it must be to hear there are people who meeting on social media before they meet in real life (or IRL for you hip people).
The majority of my friendships after college have come from meeting online first.
I grew up with loving parents who painted the Internet as a dangerous place, but I’ve only known it to be a safe space to find people who say “me too”, something that was difficult for me to find in grade school.
Whether you’re just starting to make connections online or you’ve built a whole network, I have a few tips to help you feel more comfortable with transitioning those connections to real-life conversations.
Start small by meeting up at a networking event
While I know I’m much better at one-on-one meetings in the form of coffee dates, some of you may not feel as comfortable meeting someone you’ve only chatted with a few times on social media for a full, undivided attention conversation at a coffeeshop or cafe.
To ease yourself in, try asking the person if they are going to any upcoming local networking events or conferences and tell them you’ll be sure to say hello while there. You’ll have a chance to meet the person in a less intense setting while making other connections too - win, win!
Transition first to a phone or video call
Okay, so maybe you aren’t quite ready for an in-person meeting. That’s okay! To get your feet wet, try asking a social media connection to chat through email. After a few replies back and forth, you can ask to hear more of their story through a phone or video call.
If you’re reading this thinking “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up. I’m a millennial. I don’t do phone calls”, know that you’ll get more comfortable with practice. I find I’m more comfortable doing a first live meeting with someone over a video call instead of on the phone so I can see them, but it’s up to you.
Put your location in your social media bio
Whenever I’m following a new creative professional or business owner, I immediately look at where they are located. If I see they are in the Minneapolis area, I make a mental note to connect with them a few times throughout the week before I ask to meet up. You can also do this for people visiting your own profile by stating which city you live in.
Let your followers know when you’re traveling
Let’s say you’re taking a trip in a few weeks. Try publishing a casual post or tweet that says “Hi friends! I’ll visiting _____ in two weeks on vacation and would love to meet up with anyone who will be in town.”
While at your destination, you have the opportunity to meet some online connection that you normally wouldn’t have a chance to meet due to distance. You can also look at who you’re already following and looking at their social media bios to see if anyone is currently located where you’ll be traveling. If so, reach out privately to ask if they would be available to meet.
Tweet and post during live events
One of my favorite things to do while at a conference is to use the event’s hashtag to see what other attendees are posting about live. If you find a variety or tweets or posts that you resonate with, reply to the person with a casual “You’re at the _____ conference too? I’d love to chat sometime today when you have a free moment!” I’ve been on both sides and it’s always flattering.
KAYLA HOLLATZ, FOUNDER OF #CREATELOUNGE
Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and social media strategist by trade and a community builder, poet, and storyteller by heart. She founded #createlounge, the first ever Twitter chat for creative bloggers and entrepreneurs, and has grown it into an online movement. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.