Things are changing faster than ever.

Technology is transforming every aspect of how we communicate and now more than ever; change is really the only constant. But with so many new technologies and ways to connect, it's easier to lose sight of the fact that we are still all human at the core, and all with the same basic needs.

Business has always been about these human needs, and it has always been social. Relationships were, and will continue to be, at the center of every successful business.

So why do we tend to focus so much on followers in social media? In reality, they don't mean anything.

Yes, you do need to build your network, but at the end of the day, it's all about the actual relationships built through positive interactions based on context. Social media allows you to take customer relationships that used to take months and years to develop and not only shorten that time, but also scale it.

Now you can have dozens of positive interactions with customers and potential customers on a daily basis. A lot of people are starting to get that. What most people are still not conscious about is context and, today, context is king.

Think of the last time you went to the supermarket. If you are like me, you might find yourself going there when you are really hungry and there is nothing to eat at home. You go through every isle and find yourself buying things and thinking, "Wow, that sounds delicious right about now."

On the other hand, if you go grocery shopping after a big dinner, you are in a completely different context. Because you are in the context of being hungry, you are that much more susceptible to buying and being influenced.

The same goes for every online interaction. When any positive online interaction takes place in the right context, it is that much more powerful in establishing a connection that can eventually become a business relationship.

I believe there are three three ways to build your social networks. They are:

  • It's all about the building relationships -- You might have thousands of followers and not be influential with any of them. To really build your network in social media, apply the same principles of building a relationship offline. Your goal is to get people to like you, admire you, and trust you, which will eventually lead them to buy from you, or recommend you or your business to a friend.
  • Every interaction matters -- I like to think of interactions as the building blocks of any brand. That is why every interaction should matter to you and the business you represent. Engage with people, help them, and generate as many positive interactions as possible. Go beyond that and turn negative interactions into positives, when appropriate. At the end of the day, your customers and people in your network don't expect you to be perfect. They just want you to care.

  • Context is king -- If you really want to be effective in social media and in building your network, you have to know your audience. That is, you have to be aware of context. What drives them? How does your product or service fit in their ecosystem of needs? As Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt put it: "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want to buy a quarter-inch hole." You must understand why your customer wants that hole. Cultivating relationships within that context is much more powerful.

Next time you are out there in your social networks, think about how you are cultivating your relationships through each and every interaction. Are you creating positive interactions? Are those interactions based in the right context? Or are you just doing self-promotion all the time or trying to push your content or product? Remember, you reap what you sow.