In a place as gigantic and anonymous as the Internet, the idea of building rapport seems like an entirely foreign concept. Simply taking a look through the average YouTube comments section should show you that, not only can the Internet be a pretty uninviting place, but it’s users also tend to take full advantage of the anonymity that the web has to offer. However, when you’re trying to do business online, few things are as important as lifting yourself out of anonymity and building rapport with the people that want to trust what you have to say.

Rapport is defined as building a relationship, especially one built on mutual trust and emotional sympathy. In order to be successful, you must convince your customers that you truly care about their problems and are in the perfect position to eliminate those problems. It’s not difficult to build these relationships, but it does take some time and dedication, as well as a genuine interest in the opinions and needs of your community.

A Community of Strangers

We have a hard time trusting anyone online, and for good reason. Ever since the first person found out that the Nigerian prince that needed our help transferring an inheritance to the United States (and was willing to shell out several thousand dollars if he would just pay the processing fee) was actually a minimum wage (at best) gentleman from Sweden, trust on the Internet fell apart. Never received one of these emails? This website provides a list of 542 examples of the scam.

In truth, the best aspect of the Internet quickly became its worst. You can be whoever you want online, depending on the people you want to talk to and the image you want to project. But this also means that you never know who you’re actually talking to.

In business, this makes it much more difficult to sell goods and services, even if they really are high quality. By default, your customers won’t trust a word you have to say. Your job is to convince them of your honesty and establish a trusting relationship; a rapport. But you must do so subtly. Trying to force such relationships looks just as “scammy” as hiding behind a fake computer identity.

Building Rapport Through Accessibility

I belong to a subscription SEO forum at, and one of the ways that the owner, Aaron Wall, has always impressed me is by being available to site visitors. Even if he’s not actually there, seeing the little green light by his posts that signifies he’s online is very comforting to me. It shows that he’s active and involved in the community (which he really is) and reassures me that the forum isn’t just another “get rich and leave” effort on Aaron’s part. As this particular subscription service costs $300.00, feeling like the community has the ability to interact with its leader at any given time is crucial to holding my confidence in the advice of the website.

If you build your own online community, take a page from Aaron Wall’s book and make yourself available as much as possible. Make sure that you have a stable and clear wireless Internet connection at all times, and don’t be afraid to converse with your website visitors – even if it’s at odd hours. Doing so makes your visitors feel safe and welcome, and it can make them trust you even more. You might add a little green light that shows when you’re online and available to answer questions, or you might just hold frequent live chat sessions with your site visitors. Whatever you do, make yourself available as much as possible and be open to having chats with your community – this is probably the best way to build rapport online.

Use Your Personal Experiences to Support Your Writing

I spent the majority of my early career working online as a ghost writer, writing assignments that I knew full well would never be attributed to me. For that reason, I tended to avoid writing in the first person because it felt fake and didn’t seem to make sense in my work. But then, I started to realize that online readers want that personal touch in their content – they want to feel attached to someone else for the brief time they’re perusing that person’s advice. So, even in my ghost writing, I often include some of my own experiences in my writing – even if they’ll ultimately be attributed to someone else.

The Internet is loaded with anonymous quick tips, often supported by further anonymous citations. You can position yourself ahead of your competition by getting personal in your content. Most bloggers will, from time to time, simply post about some possibly interesting thing that happened to them during the day. Loyal readers and customers like to see these posts once in a while. Some people, such as the famous business blogger Seth Godin, do almost nothing but personal posts – his brand is his name, and his value is his experience. almost everything you write should focus on the reader most of the time, but don’t be afraid to share some of your own experiences to support your opinions and statements.

Post Dynamic Pictures, Not High School Yearbook Photos

If you would like to add a face to your blog, try posting action photos, not just pictures of you smiling for the camera. Readers often want to see the face behind your business, but simply uploading a small picture of yourself isn’t enough. Post pictures of your office, your staff, your last company picnic – anything you can find. Visitors will trust you much more if you can prove that you’re a real person and you enjoy doing the same things that your customers do. The pictures should be professional, but don’t be afraid to include a few tastefully wacky pictures that show your personality. The majority of your customers will connect with such pictures instead of viewing you as unprofessional.

An added benefit of including your staff in the pictures involves showing that there is a whole team behind you, working to keep your customers happy. And, according to the pictures, you’re a person with which they enjoy working.

In general, any way you can make yourself more of a human than a computer online can help build rapport with your customers. Be respectful of your employees (ask them if it’s ok to post some pictures of them on your website) and your visitors, and you’ll find that even the smallest touches can help your customers feel safe and secure as they visit your site. You probably won’t get any new best friends through your site, but you will almost certainly build some lasting business relationships by staying involved, opening up to your community, and sharing your life with people that are genuinely interested in what you have to say.