Build Relationships. Not Numbers.

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She friended me on Facebook. Not once, not twice, but a few times.

Her profile photo made her look fantastic. Clearly, the plastic surgery worked. The way she flaunted her assets in photo after photo made her a prime candidate for some Sports Illustrated spread. She probably was too short to be a real model, I’d concluded.

I never met her. Didn’t know her. I don’t even remember her name. But every time that friend request came in, I reminded myself that I don’t have to justify why I’m not going to accept the request. I already justified many times over that I don’t accept Facebook friend requests from people I don’t know, not only on my blog (already five years old now, wow!) but also under the Favorite Quotes part of the About page on my profile, something people would never check. (And why is the Favorite Quotes thing still even there? For what its worth, it’s been effective in 0.2% of instances!)

I still find myself being thrown in a marketer’s camp. I wrote a bestselling book on social media marketing, and that is what I became known for, though social media marketing is already dead. After writing regularly about the virtues of social media marketing, it finally culminated in 2011 when I said point blank: social media marketing is typically a failure. Most people don’t know how to define objectives, and frankly, even with well-defined objectives, you just can’t do social media marketing by itself and assume you’re going to build traction or visibility. I began offering more services than social media marketing, but as I realized that most of my previous partner agencies didn’t do great with marketing despite their industry-wide acclaim, I moved away from marketing almost exclusively.

And yet.

You can’t shake a title. It’s kind of like people saying that some tragedy that befalls them will not define them. Reading an article on the Sandy Hook elementary shooting of 2012, one of the teachers in the attack said “I won’t be defined by this.” Except unless something bigger comes her way, she will be. No one has any other basis for comparison.

So I’ll have to settle for the incorrect categorization, kind of like my friend Brian Solis who has been trying to dissociate with PR for quite some time.

This means I’m still perceived as a key marketer. Except for now, despite working behind the scenes on just about everything and keeping a super low profile (I do have three kids aged 6 and under, after all), I’m not.

As I look through the mutual friends of these contacts, I realize that I’m very different from these marketing types, not just in terms of my actual day job and practices but in terms of the people whose company I choose.

I am less known (than I should be–I’m still seen as some one trick social media marketing pony) for building kickass communities. But that’s something I do damn better than most, and this is where I am not like any one of these guys: it all starts with one on one relationships, something my ISFJ personality craves over some massive market strategy where I can be singing from the rooftops and attracting a big crowd.

Because to me, it all starts with one person. Each person matters. But I will not collect people to further my agenda. That’s not genuine.

Let’s return to my friend, this model-wannabe, for a moment. Today, her friend request came in. She had over a dozen friends in common with me–from all walks of life, but mostly in the marketing discipline. I knew very clearly that this nonexistent pretty woman didn’t know any of them. More importantly, they didn’t know her (her? Him?) because she didn’t exist.

It is absolutely amazing how many friends I have who blindly accept friend requests from non-real people. These friend requests I get with people who have clearly fake profiles is alarming–and then to see that they have mutual friends with so many of my real friends is ridiculous.

Marketing people, this is all on you. And this is why, more than ever, I want to disconnect from being your typical marketer. I am not someone who builds numbers so that I can easily pitch them later. (And I realize most of you aren’t doing that, but still don’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake! The most shocking thing to me about all of this is that these marketing folks who are in this bucket are actually legitimate hardworking people, who are not at all the sleazy types!)

Build real relationships, not relationships so that you can accumulate numbers! If you don’t know them, why are you accepting the friend requests? What does that do for you? Do you really think they are interested in you, or are they interested in making their profile look as legitimate as possible so that they can spam their Facebook feed with some Ray Ban glasses crap that you will hopefully see and act on? (Come on, you can’t say you never saw this ever happen.)

There’s something to be said about genuine social networks that allow people to connect with their loved ones. But then there’s a whole slew of people who get an ego boost when they receive friendship connections from people they don’t know, but who may have heard of their name in some blog or something. That’s where it starts. But it keeps going, giving these new people a chance to justify the acceptance as “Oh, but she’s friends with A, B, and C, so she must be okay to connect with.”

Dude, it’s not. If you don’t know them, you won’t get to know them either when you have 4,961 Facebook friends. So what’s the point? Do these social networks truly have value to you, or is it all a numbers game?

Hopefully the friendships you have are real. Sure, I’ve got nearly 2,000 friends, but they are people I truly know personally from all walks of life, from preschool to college, then to the industry (folks I met at conferences on multiple occasions), all the way to the neighbors I just met who moved into the house nearby. They’re all real. I choose each friendship wisely because I want to know them better, truly engage with them (though I wish Facebook had an RSS reader so I could see all updates, not just the ones Facebook sends me, but I digress).

Are your friendships real?

And if not, why not?

Photo credit: Brittany Smith

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2 replies on “Build Relationships. Not Numbers.”
    1. Yesterday, as one of my good industry friends Dave, whose Facebook name changed to “Bojon Jokeisonyou” in 2007, posted Ray Ban spam, I realized how important it is to reiterate this message. And then I told Dave that we can’t stay friends. I don’t want to associate with that crap.

      Somehow I think his profile just got hacked in 2007 and he stopped caring. But I wasn’t going to sit around and wait another 8 years for him to get his act together. Thanks Theo!

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