You Can’t Force Relationships

by Ken Mueller on November 20, 2012 · 14 comments

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If you spend any amount of time reading any of the thousands of articles and blogs posted daily that have anything to do with marketing or social media, you’ll see a number of phrases or terms used over and over again.

One of those will most likely be the word “relationship” or the term “relationship marketing”. Relationships are at the core of what social media is all about. Word of mouth is built on relationships, and businesses seek to build those relationships with their customers. Of course not all relationships are created equal. Relationships can be built both online and offline, but a combination of the two might be most effective.

But relationships take time. They are built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. They are built on a give and take, a conversation that takes place online and offline over the long run.

You can’t manufacture relationships. They happen organically.

You can’t force relationships. Just like in real life, the organic every day networking is more meaningful. Not a forced networking event with business cards. At those, everyone is there as a mercenary. Everyone sees dollar signs. You are not a person, you are a prospect. It’s a singles bar for business people.

You can’t buy relationships. If a relationship is predicated upon money changing hands, it’s not a real relationship.  We have a word for that, and it isn’t very pretty.

When it comes to relationships, you sometimes just have to let it happen. Sure you can do certain things to facilitate the relationship, but that includes things like being available, being trustworthy, opening up and sharing, and listening. It involves spending time with people.

Now, how does that translate to how you’re doing business?

 

 

 You Cant Force Relationships
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12 comments
lmspreen
lmspreen

The bigger issue for me is, I don't see how it's humanly possible to have an authentic relationship with large numbers of followers/friends/likers, etc. I worry that I interact with someone for a while and then we drop off each other's radar. It was real while it lasted, but now I don't even remember her issue. Or her. The transience of social media "relationships" makes me feel INauthentic. 

Ken, let's use you as an example. You have over 7000 followers on Twitter and 1800 people have liked your biz page on Facebook. The very size of that group almost requires you to have a certain level of superficiality, or you'll never get anything done. How do you reconcile that? Thanks. 

girlseeksplace
girlseeksplace

I agree 100% with this post. I also find it applies to friendships and romantic relationships. Just because you've been friends with someone for ten years doesn't mean you're going to stay friends with that person forever. Sometimes it becomes apparent the relationship has been one-sided the entire time. You have to mourn the loss and move on.

magriebler
magriebler

Somewhere along the way we may have confused ease of access with authenticity. Yes, we can rub elbows with all kinds of wonderful people online, but we still have to put in the effort to transform an acquaintance into a relationship. Knowing someone's Twitter handle does not a BFF make!

That said, I love how the world of social media can begin to feel a bit like a small town, albeit a small town with very large borders. We just have to remember that the IRL rules of relationship building -- trust, sensitivity, authenticity -- still apply.

LizJostes
LizJostes

Considering I met and built a very solid relationship completely online with the person who later became my business partner, I'd say that online friends are real.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@girlseeksplace And that's really the point, online relationships are no different than offline. the same rules apply for the most part.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@magriebler It's a fine line, and those of us here all know that it is possible to build real relationships online. And those relationships can be incredible!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes Oh I would never say they aren't real. I agree. I think what you and I have is a real friendship. The point is that those relationships, and I would bet your relationship with your business partner, take time. We can't just assume that interacting with someone a little bit online, particularly from a business/customer standpoint, is a meaningful "relationship". 

LizJostes
LizJostes

@KenMueller Ha! Though it's funny that you say that. I am amazed by the number of people who haven't gotten much further than the basic connection phase who then act like you are BFFs and should be willing to move mountains on their behalf.

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