Creating & Defining Relationships on the Web

October 13, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

Michelle Robbins tweeted a great link over the weekend. It was to an article from The Huffington Post entitled Relationships 2.0 – How Technology Redefines How We Connect. It was a thought-provoking read. However, as a marketer it’s my job to prove that Ph.D wrong.

Every day.

Technology hasn’t changed the core of relationships. It’s changed the way we meet people, the ease in which we can interact and it’s expanded our pool of faces to choose from, yes. But it hasn’t changed the type of relationships people strive for. We still gravitate towards the people “like us”. We still have the same need to be understood, to be heard and to be valued. We still go into relationships looking to form the same bond and feel loved/accepted. Technology has changed none of that.

Dr. Jim Taylor and his Ph.D. in psychology believe that the Web has made it easy to disconnect. That it makes it easier to create false friends. And it does, if that’s what you’re looking for. But false friending online is no different than the false handshakes in real life. No different than the friend who hugs you while you’re sobbing and then shares your sordid secrets to increase their own social rank. The virtual relationships Dr. Taylor is talking about where you don’t truly know one someone are no different than turning on the local news and finding out that your friendly neighbor is a pedophile. You always know only what someone wants you to know. That wasn’t invented by the Internet. That was invented by people being shady and by people prone to being doormats.

As a marketer, it’s really important that you understand how to create real relationships on the Web. That’s the world in which we’re now playing in. Virtual relationships don’t cut it. To be honest, they never did.

Samir Balwani published an interview yesterday that he conducted with a handful of search marketers, myself included. One of the questions asked was how would I teach someone how to use social media and “make the magic happen”? I responded that I’d remind them how to be human. That I’d want to teach them how to break down the walls that marketing adds and just talk to people. To connect with them. To hold real conversations. Because you create connections on the Web the same way you create them in real life, by doing two very basic things:

  • Sharing yourself
  • Allowing others to share themselves

Anyone who’s dabbled in social media knows that technology has NOT limited what you can truly know about someone. It’s done the opposite. It’s broken down barriers so that you CAN get to know people and create legitimate relationships. To create the kind of relationships that make people act and that you can call on later, whether that’s for marketing or simply on a personal level.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I tweet a lot with Jamie Varon. She even guest posted on the blog while I was in Ireland. I know Jamie from the Internet. For all our Twitter gushing and juicy DMs (z0mg if those got out!), I’ve never met her in real life. That said, if I ever had a need to move a body in the middle of the night, Jamie would among the first I’d call to help me move it. She’s not an “Internet friend”; she’s a “call in the middle of night when shit goes down” friend. Because that relationship has been formed through shared experiences and personal stories, even if we did “meet” on the Internet.

And that’s why social media has become such a powerful vehicle for marketers. Because cold businesses have been able to form these genuine connections. They’re not just getting by on “virtual relationships”, “Relationships 2.0” or whatever annoying buzzword you want to put on it. They’ve made business personal. They’ve made people not “fans” of your company, but “friends” of it. That’s a huge difference from where we were.

Dr. Taylor is right in that “connection alone doth not a relationship make”, but connection is where all things start. It’s up to you to take that connection and grow a move-a-body-in-the-night relationship. That’s your goal and it’s why this “social” thing is so exciting for me. It’s about people, getting to know them, and being human again. It’s not about fake friends, it’s about great ones.

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