Facebook: Filling The Word “Friend” With Value Again!

Let’s take back the word “friend” and fill it with value again! Why? Well.. It seems to me that Facebook has done an amazing thing – they now own the word “friend”.  The problem is that they have devalued the word while adding value to their brand.

How many of you use “air quotes” when you say so-and-so is your Facebook “friend”?  That’s exactly my point.  The word now, more often than not, just means that you exchanged a keystroke with someone.

I’m not suggesting that connecting through Facebook is a bad thing; I’m saying that few of us actually take the time to connect in the ways that a real friend would.  We are missing the chance to use social media as a tool that facilitates real relationships and instead using “friends” as points in a popularity contest.

How Can We Counter The Facebook Takeover of The Word ‘Friend’? 

Let’s start with breaking completely out of our online world for a moment and do something really cutting edge: pick up the TELEPHONE and CALL someone.  Make someone feel special by connecting voice to voice with them and having a real-time conversation.

Then take everything you know about face-to-face relationships and bring them back with you online:

1. A friend is not just an audience. 

Friendship is not a one-way information push; it is a two-way interaction loop. Ask questions, listen to and HEAR the answers, ask more questions.  It takes ongoing interaction to get a clear path through the digital noise out there!

2. A friend is not just a number.

Think about how many times you hear television ads that end with “to us, you are not just a number, you’re a person” (except for SleepNumber Mattresses, who play with that and say “to us, you’re not just a person, you’re a number!”).  The point is to remember that each interaction involves a real person.  Yes, I do have over 2800 Facebook friends, but I do pay attention and respond to all comments and postings on my walls and photos.  Does it take time?  It sure does, but all real relationships take time, so I would expect nothing less!

3. A friend has shared interests.

Friends connect around shared interests, which attract additional friendships that turn into communities of interest.  YOU are the hub of your personal social media “community of interest,” so consider it your responsibility to provide content relevant to your friends interests.  Hint: if you are authentic in your online and offline “profiles,” what you are naturally inclined to share will automatically be of interest to your friends.  Save yourself some effort and just be genuine from the beginning!

4. Friendships require maintenance.

We are all calling these tools “social media,” yet we are becoming LESS social!  Facebook status updates do not count as a relationship.  Back and forth conversation ABOUT your status update, however, is a much more social interaction.  But don’t let it end there.  Take the initiative to reach out and GIVE value rather than expecting everyone to come to you…remember, friendship requires an ongoing flow of giving and receiving.

5. Do unto others…

The way you engage with people makes an impression no matter what tool you are using.  Look at your own behaviors and ask yourself, “Would I want to be my friend??”  Are you noticing and affirming the value of individuals and groups in your network? Are you genuinely interested and paying attention to the people behind the texts and words on a screen?  Are you going out of your way to be of service to others in your network?  That’s the kind of friend I would want to have and to be.

A real friend is not just a number and a photo on the screen.  Remember that next time you’re on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or blogging or ANYtime!) and do what it takes to be a friend.  One by one, we can take back the word “friend”!

‎”Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~Anais Nin

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What Is Return on Relationship?

All of those social metrics like Facebook fans, retweets, site visits, video views, positive ratings and vibrant communities are just not measurable financial assets! They aren’t reflected on the balance sheet and can’t be counted on an income statement—but that doesn’t mean, however, that they are without value.

Measuring Brand Engagement 

Instead, these are stats are leading indicators that a brand is creating value that can lead to financial results in the future. These social relationships can also be leveraged through initiatives, campaigns, and events to create real dollar value for a brand. In other words, ROR – Return on Relationship!

Understanding And Maintaining Relationships In A Digital World

Defining and maintaining our relationships In a digital world, has become hard. Social Media has enabled us to connect with an infinite number of individuals; it has given us the tools to extend relationships that years ago would have been impossible.  Yet make no mistake: “Social Media is a facilitator of relationships, but it is not the relationship itself.”  You have to give to get; it’s so simple in concept yet not always easy to wrap your arms around when online since it is not as simple as a favor, a hug or a handshake.

I believe everything we do in our personal lives and business revolves around relationships… now more than ever. With effort, an online relationship may begin from the request of a Facebook friend or following someone on Twitter; but make no mistake – that initial request or follow will never create the relationship.  Trust is built upon interaction, when you’re true to your word, authentic, and genuine.  To build relationships online, you (as a brand or individual) have to offer value in return.  Be it via valuable information or personal introductions, engagement and interaction will remain key.  By asking questions and proposing ideas, you can engage your followers in such a way to give them the ability and reason to respond.  Then when they do respond, interact with them to solidify your relationship, lest it fade away.  Directly acknowledge their response, ask follow-up questions and share their insights with others.

Follow me on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean.  The more responsive you are to your audience, the more responsive they’ll be to you.  And that’s where relationships are born.

Return on Relationship™ (hashtag #RonR)… simply put the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing.

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For The Sake Of Social Reciprocity

“Hangin’ out
Down the street
The same old thing
We did last week
Not a thing to do
But talk to you…”

—Cheap Trick, “That 70’s Song”

When I saw it for the first time, my heart filled with love and faith, and my spirit transcended the atmospheric sensitivity of childhood scarring.

“Chewie, we’re home.” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

For some, the words are meaningless, nothing more than another passing obscure reference of no interest, something silly for the crazies of sci-fi fandom.

But for me, it’s beyond moving.

Flashback to the summer of 1977, the world was complicated. We were still recovering from the longest and steepest recession at that time. Middle East tensions ran high. Domestic violence awareness and child abuse awareness was in its infancy. Political myopia was everywhere. We seemed to be a highly disconnected world in the wake of early technological innovation.

I was in my own complicated world living with domestic violence and abuse. Star Wars was to become a savior of sorts. My little sister and I stood in the long, hot line at the Fox Theater in Visalia, CA to see the new space epic.

We sat in the dark theater and held fast the seats beneath us, looking aspirational celluloid straight in the eye. I remember with stellar clarity the journey to a galaxy far, far away when I became one with rogues, rebels, villains and heroes and a musical score that haunts me to this day.

Nothing else really mattered until the house lights came up. We didn’t have social media then, so it’s all my friends and I could talk about “IRL” for the rest of that summer and well into the school year. But I carried with me a newfound hope, and now decades later, multi-generations of fans wait longingly for the next chapter of the Star Wars saga.

Chewie, we’re home sent chills through many of us and we cheered along (and I’m still cheering since I’ve watched the new trailer over and over and over again), yet again living in a complicated parallel universe to 1977: economic recovery, global tension, political myopia, accessible domestic violence and child abuse awareness, a now highly interconnected world via a mobile and social tech explosion. I now talk to some of those same childhood friends online more than in person.

Besides my excitement of my girls watching the films someday soon, these interactions in and around the new move have been online. My friends and I look at each other digitally in the eye and revel in the rebel joy, or poke fun at each other and the satiric spoofing from Space Balls and comedic titles like “Star Wars: When the Sith Hits the Fan.”

star wars Mama and DaddyAnd us older folk – those in their late 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even beyond – aren’t the only ones “present” with one another on Facebook sharing Star Wars fun. Facebook is the most popular and frequently used social media platform among teens, and those who have us as parents and have already been exposed to the Jedi magic will share with one another authentically online as well as in person.

But building and sustaining authentic relationships in person or online is no easy task. It takes an investment of being “present,” whether you’ve met someone for the first time, or talking with him or her for the thousandth time.

For example, have you met people at a conference or in a networking situation (maybe at the recent Star Wars Celebration) and they’re constantly looking around the room to see who else is there, or they’re looking at their watch, or anywhere except at you? Most likely yes, and those signals mean they aren’t really “present” in the conversation, so there is no true connection.

The same goes for those who’ve been connecting with me of late on LinkedIn, people I don’t know but who share numerous “personal” connections, and so I connect. Shortly thereafter they’re endorsing me with skills that may be relevant, but that they have no relational context with. And then they’re hitting me up for one thing or another.

Even sharing personal anecdotes from greater good of the Star Wars universe doesn’t sway me from hitting delete.

Introductions and ongoing relationships in social platforms require the same personal attention as the human touch and eye contact in a physical relationship, said Ted Rubin, social media marketing icon and TalentCulture #TChat Show guest. That means whether at work, at home, in a movie theater, or online. Anywhere and everywhere and all points in between.

It’s a reciprocal two-way street to not only sustain but also to grow new relationships online, especially when you won’t see the person much if at all. Unless for reasons of safety and security, online anonymity does not a relationship build, and even brands can lift the veil so we see the whites of each other’s eyes. Online public shaming is bad enough when we know who the shamers are.

When we listen and really hear one another, really “see” one another, and respond in thoughtful kind, only then can we figure out how we can serve one another personally and professionally in the best way possible through every boom or bust.

I’m not talking about taking on global injustice or saving the world, but I am suggesting this is how we empower each other’s worlds through personal leadership and positive focal points for the sake of a better home world and social reciprocity – key advice for organizations recruiting and developing their people, for diverse professionals growing and sustaining online internal and external community, and for companies connecting with prospects and customers.

“You have that power, too,” says Luke Skywalker in the latest Star Wars teaser trailer.

Make fun of me if you want, but when we’re present, the Force awakens in all of us. Always.

Photo: Fox Theater