Friends, Followers, or Connections

July 20, 2016
Author: LaVon Koerner

Today we are surrounded by a barrage of social media. With the evolution of how people connect to each other, it is no wonder that a relationship term like friends is being redefined. You decide, is the following definition still accurate for your social media connections?

Merriam Webster Definition of friend: 1: a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person. 2: a person who is not an enemy <friend or foe> 3: a person who helps or supports something or someone. 

It should be no surprise having experienced the speed and volume in the growth of social media that so called “friends” can be quick to amass. I know someone who has over 20,000 connections on his page, while paying people full-time to connect to as many business people as they can on his account. Yet, can anything that is so easily achieved have real value for everyone using it? 

The more of anything that you can easily accumulate, the less value it holds.

As is the inverse,

The less there is of something or the more difficult it is to obtain, the more valuable it becomes.

These basic marketplace truths are now impacting sales relationships, creating confusion as to a proper category of connections. Some label them as friends, others as followers, acquaintances, or contacts. Add to that, the ease by which you can now un-friend someone or block a contact demonstrates the very temporary nature of these social media relationships. Many times the other party does not even know. Not the basis of a real friendship is it? So what does this jumbled relationship mess mean to us as sales professionals?

The Good

Innovative social technology combined with an increased willingness for people to expand their personal network has produced increased opportunities to purposefully grow your connections. The time is right to focus on this! It is easy to use and not much of a commitment from the receiver’s point of view. So, you can amass a good network with careful thought and planning, and a little bit of prescheduled time each week. I recommend sales professionals in general should allot at least one hour a week just for targeting and connecting on social media. While the list of connections is not the goal, it is a good foundation for your other sales work. Social media can be a new launching pad for building deeper connections if used wisely.

The Bad

Some people see a connection via social media as the ultimate goal—as a valuable database that can open doors for them whenever they choose. Yet it is really a list of potential referrals and contacts that if not nurtured, has little value. It requires proactive investment to make your contacts valuable. Warning—do not be labeled an Annoying Social Seller! Yes, the acronym is not lost on me either. There is a new level of cynicism that comes with new social media connections—that is how long after I accept this invitation will they ask for a meeting or referral? Personally, if I accept an invite from someone I do not know, it is typically 2 days. If you ask this soon your risk of being block just skyrocketed. Too many people have too quickly asked for favors shortly after being accepted as connection. The old adage of, “It is better to give than to receive” is true. Provide value with thought leadership and knowledge before asking for something yourself. Many times people accepting a connection are expecting you will bring them value in the future, so do not waste it on an ill prepared sales pitch or referral request. Rise to their best expectations!

The Potential

Social media connections can be a great means of getting referrals, soft introductions, and more, if managed well. It is not about the quantity of connections created in a random manner. Like any database, its value is in its quality—who is in it and the strength of the connection. The people in your database—are they decision makers, are they influential, do they have strong connections to the people you want to connect to? How strong is your connection to people in your circle? Are they a prior colleague, client, or university alums? What value have your provided your connections and with what frequency so they will remember you?

I recommend sales professionals post at least quarterly articles of value, but preferably monthly. You can share recommended articles or even better, post your own. It takes an investment of your time to provide thought leadership and value to your contacts, but the potential, if well managed can open doors for you like no other personal tool has before.

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