Posts

Social Media: The End of Friends? Or the Beginning of Friendship?

Remember all those curmudgeonly quips about how online “friends” were cheapening the real thing? How the Facebook generation was mistaking true friendship for the faux, virtual kind?

Can we finally lay all that to rest?

Who’s Kidding Whom?

People with a thousand LinkedIn connections, 2,000 Facebook friends and 10,000 twitter followers are perfectly aware that what they have is not the same thing as the relationship with their high school buddies.  They don’t even use “relationship” to describe it.

But neither are those connections always number-bling (though yes, some of them are).

Social media hasn’t so much redefined “friend” as it has offered a new channel to find friends.

LinkedIn and Twitter are to friends what Match.com was to dating – a vastly superior mode for doing lead-generation and processing early-stage pleasantries.  Does anyone really think singles bars were a preferable way to find romance?

The online dating services, like online genealogy services, simply made it vastly easier to broaden the range of people from whom one might choose to become better acquainted.

The Social Impact on Business

I find my business life has been remarkably impacted by social media these past few years.  A lot of the people I now call friends – real friends, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word, and rich business acquaintances – I have initially met through social media.

People like @davidabrock, @iannarino, @julien, @chrisbrogan, @johngies, @zerotimeselling (Andy Paul), @jillkonrath, @robincarey, @ianbrodie, and more, I have gotten to know personally – through social media.

Social media are a “starter drug,” if you will; just because you “friend” someone on social media doesn’t mean you’ll end up being real friends.  But increasingly, a lot of real friends start out with the online “friend” channel.

Online “friends” may not be friends, but they can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

 

 

Network and Relationship Building Done Right

Networking is one of the hottest topics in the blogosphere right now, part of a general rush to figure out how business (sales in particular) can relate to the online world.

The most common problem with the rush to networking—online or offline—is the overwhelming desire to treat it as a quick-hit way to transactional selling.  Call it the spammification of new sales ideas.

The truth is simple and evident: blogs and communities and twitter feeds et al have not rewritten the rules of relationships.  They are simply another venue within which to play them out.

Just as email is getting overwhelmed by spam, there is a surfeit of those who collect Linked-In contacts; who enjoy applying the still-latent meaning in the word “friend” to 700 such people on Facebook; and generally those who wish to find a shortcut to relationships and to sales.

Alas, rushing too fast into relationships in cyberspace has exactly the same result as it does in the analog protein world: it achieves the opposite of what was intended.  We resent being hustled, rushed, hit on.  And we react.

Which is why it’s always refreshing to see a sensible treatment of the subject.  RainToday.com has a new online guide, called “Face-to-Face Networking Guide: A Primer for Relationship Building.

And it is done right. It gives practical advice on how to network—online or offline—based on some sound, commonsensical ideas about how human beings develop relationships.  This not a piece by Luddites—they know their technology in the new world, but more fundamentally they know how selling of complex services works.

Full disclosure: I’m a Contributing Editor of Raintoday.com, they publish some of my articles, and I’ve done a webinar with them.  That’s all because I think they’re pretty darn good at what they do, which is to produce great content about how to sell professional services.  

Give them a look-see.

 

Who Do You Trust? What Trust Rankings Really Tell Us

You’ve probably noticed, from time to time, survey results on trust—which professions we trust the most, which institutions, which messages, channels, and so forth.

The most recent such data—from Nielsen— tells us that web users around the world trust the recommendations of others more than they trust advertising.

Other surveys tell us we put “a person like yourself” ahead of all others. 

Still others tell us the relative trustworthiness of various professions.
There are two messages in these surveys—one explicit, the other implicit.

The explicit message is the headline—we trust doctors more than newscasters, we trust blogs more than advertising, and so on. Those data tell things like “who’s winning,” and how Australians differ from Chinese. Interesting. Food for marketers’ thought. And great for parlor conversation.

But the implicit message is about the nature of trust itself. Which is not at all obvious.

Imagine a survey asked people “How closely are you related to other people?” Now imagine findings like: “Parents top the relation list; followed closely by children and siblings. Cousins are found to be less related, about tied with in-laws. Neighbors and TV sitcom families appear to be the least closely related.”

Silly, because such a survey just re-enacts a trivially true definition as if were a new empirical discovery.

But isn’t trust much the same? We all have an instinctive sense that we trust certain people more than others. If I know you, have history with you, have shared personal moments with you, converse with you, work and play with you—then the odds are far greater that I’ll trust you than I’ll trust someone two degrees away on LinkedIn.

So when Nielsen tells us that consumers trust consumers more than advertising, the headline is about the low trust scores of advertisers.  But perhaps it shouldn’t be.
Perhaps that finding rates a giant, massive “Duh!”

Perhaps the headline should be, “trust linked to personal relationships.”

A major business trust issue today is how to “scale” trust. What can be done to networks of strangers to approach the high level of trust we see in more personal relationships?

Some efforts focus on increasing network size—Amazon’s algorithm for predicting what books you’ll like, for example. It works very well—for predicting books you’ll like. But for whether you should buy a house now in this market?  Hmmm.

Other efforts focus on track records. Of those who recommend buying a house now, vs. waiting—who has the better record of predictions? This helps with investing—but do you trust your investment advisor to recommend restaurants?  Or to play matchmaker?

Still other efforts increase the bandwidth available for us to evaluate others: Facebook and Match.com owe a lot to the ability to let people be who they are, let it all hang out—and share it with others.

The most successful networks will be those that replicate the full human experience—providing us broad markets, rich data—and deep exposure to the humanity of the others that lets us create bonds.

Those are the networks that will end up being trusted. And end up scoring high on trust surveys.

It’s no secret.