I had an eye opener the other day when I was talking about the subject of friends with a woman I know and mentioned that mine were few and far between.
“But you have a lot of friends on Facebook!” she exclaimed.
“Those don’t really count.” I quickly replied. “My Facebook contacts are mostly people who have met me once or twice or seen me speak at an event or remember me from my past. They aren’t really my friends.”
“Well,” she replied. “If that’s how you think of them, then I guess they never will be.”
She’s right, of course. How we choose to classify people matters, because it, in turn, dictates our behavior toward those people and theirs toward us.
Our perception shapes our reality.
And yet, all of us — individuals and businesses — tend to overlook this fact and instead “lump and dump” people into broad categories or lists and then engage with them just as broadly.
Instead of a network of hundreds of unique people, we have “contacts,” “prospects,” “thought leaders,” or “competition.” (Heck, even the word, “friend” is a broad category encompassing close friends, casual friends, old friends, new friends, potential friends, frenemies, etc.)
This process of organizing relevant information into meaningful chunks (according to some research, we can be aware of no more than four chunks at a time) is how human consciousness evolved to help us learn. But, in the social space, it may also lead us to shut engagement doors that we weren’t even aware were open.
Who are the people in your neighborhood?
So, does this mean that we should develop deep, complex and unique relationships with every single person in each of our social networks?
But, it does mean that we should recognize that everyone in our network may be worthy of having a relationship with us which is deep, complex and unique. And we’ll never know which ones are worth the investment if we treat them all the same.
To figure out who to treat differently, start by caring…
- Build your network strategically, with people who have possibility and potential (even if that possibility and potential doesn’t exactly match your goals.)
- Treat all of your network members with respect and give them attention worthy of the investment they have made in you.
- Accept that your social media audience(s) knows more about what they want and need than you do. (Sometimes they may also know more about what you want and need than you do, too.)
Contrary to what most businesses think, caring, compassion and empathy (not strategy, messaging and tactics) are the foundation for any type of personal or professional relationship. They are powerful perceptions, capable of creating a reality for you that is full of potential.