At one point in time, the idea of an online relationship was somewhat strange to the average person. People that spent their time talking in chat rooms were looked at as perhaps awkward or social misfits; who else besides weirdos would sit in their basement on Prodigy or AOL and talk to complete strangers online?
And like many things that start out foreign to people like Automobiles, Flying Machines and the Internet, in time what was once strange and uncomfortable for the many became an industry for the masses.
In the case of the online relationship, it too has evolved going from something for nerds and outcasts to something that individuals, organizations and brands seek out; almost a parallel existence to “IRL.”
But what set the course for online relationships?
While there are many contributing factors, probably none has been more compelling than the mass adoption of Social Media which instantly bridged the gap between people everywhere, allowing instant connection between any two people just about anywhere in the world; bound by only access to the internet which has become more pervasive each day.
However, with such great accessibility come the opportunistic that seek to broadcast there way to the great masses. And while that may be a strategy for some, this sort of behavior has created an influx of people and companies seeking to use the connected world as an opportunity to broadcast rather than build relationships. A not so subtle difference that is often whiffed by big and and small brands alike.
Are We Talking to or Talking At Our Readers?
So what is in a good relationship? Since relationships can come in all shapes and sizes, let’s be sure to assume that the ones we are targeting are positive and meaningful as it pertains to driving a business forward.
If you think about the online or real world people that you have good relationships with you generally find some pillars that they are built on. Perhaps trust, dependability or passion serve as the catalyst, but nonetheless there are usually one or more strong character bonds that bring a relationship closer.
So as a business or individual, doesn’t it make sense to pursue the relationship building exercise with those things in mind?
While this seems super logical, a question that many brands and people should ask themselves is whether they are talking to people online or talking at people online?
By talking to people you are engaging them, you are opening up to them and you are creating an opportunity to build the trust required to enter into a relationship.
When you talk at people you are lecturing, coming from a place of more power or influence and you are limiting connections to those created by fear, coercion or necessity. Nevertheless most choose to talk at rather than to because it is easier, unfortunately it doesn’t work as well, but I suppose if you haven’t been exposed to a better way, whatever the current approach is becomes by default “The Way.”
Brands Are Comprised of People, Right?
Let me ask you a question…What is your online relationship like with Berkshire Hathaway?
Have you even heard of them? It’s a great brand, worth billions of dollars; Company does just about everything right, but as an individual, how much does that matter to you.
Now, how about Warren Buffet. Do you find what he has to say online to be interesting, engaging or worth connecting with?
While someone like Warren Buffet may be a slightly extreme example, what it does is creates clarity that most people are very interested in connecting and engaging with the thoughts, content and ideas of an individual. However, often they could care less about the company.
Why do you think this is?
At first glance, I believe that this is because people want to build relationships with people and by having leaders that are interesting and connected to their communities it enables the brand to become more relevant to the same people. Most likely because people more naturally connect to other people than they do to brands.
In short, companies and their leaders need to humanize their brands by building relationships within their communities in order to make the brand more relatable.
It isn’t Really Different than Offline
So here is the kicker…
One of the most visible misconceptions that I have seen from people and businesses seeking to build relationships online is their wildly inaccurate belief that online relationships are different than relationships built in 3-D.
Now…before you scream at the monitor, I am not saying that relationships expanded in the physical world aren’t enhanced or further developed.
What I am saying is that on both ends of the “Device” sits a human being. A living, breathing person that chooses whom they want to associate with.
“It’s never the platform, it’s always the message.”
So if you are talking at and not to people online, perhaps it is time to start asking yourself what message you are sending?
Relationships are built online and offline through trust and nurturing…now, happy relationship building everyone!
This article was originally seen here on The Millennial CEO