message in a bottle

Friendship and Marketing

I had a discussion with a friend recently about sales and marketing. She was selling a product that she felt very strongly about and when people chose not to purchase it she took it as a slight. I’ve seen the same philosophy in marketing over the years in everything from Tupperware to real estate. I didn’t buy what my friend was selling. Not because I didn’t believe in her or believe in her product, but because my recent life experience has made me unwilling to spend money on just about anything.

I didn’t understand how my friend felt until the same friend created her own website without asking my opinion for even reading the notes I have online for websites. In retrospect it’s pretty funny because my reaction was the same as hers: I thought doesn’t she trust me? Are we friends? Why didn’t she ask my opinion first?

And then I realized it really is the same situation. We’ve been friends for so many years and will continue to be whether we use each other’s skills. Friendship and marketing should not go together. And yet in this day and age of social networking, of Internet marketing – it seems that friendship and marketing have gotten irrevocably intertwined.

It seems some days like the Internet is redefining all the terms. What is a friend? I can remember a time in my life when a friend was defined as someone that I spent time with, someone that I went places with, shared activities with. Now I have friends that I have never met. There are people I respect and whose opinions I will ask for who live on the other side of the planet from me.

A client asked me recently if she should friend people on Facebook so that she could broaden her tribe. This led to a discussion of the friend lists on Facebook. I’ve heard of people who got so many friends on Facebook that their Facebook account was shut down. My general advice is to friend anyone on Twitter but to keep Facebook for people that you really know. If you’re going to use Facebook to broaden your tribe then create a special fan page for your brand and collect fans there.

Of course for writers it is even more important to build a broad range of fans. You want to get a wide range of people into your tribe or your sphere of influence or however you want to refer to the range that your social networking activity can reach. Just remember that just because someone is your friend on Facebook doesn’t mean they’re your friend in real life. Don’t forget that just because someone doesn’t buy what you’re selling that doesn’t mean they aren’t a true friend to you. As the world of network marketing increases, I think it’s going to be even more important to remember to keep friendship and business separate.

At a conference, I sat around a table with a group of people discussing Facebook. One person’s opinion was that the best thing about Facebook was that you could interact with your friends on a daily basis without actually having to engage them. You didn’t have to call them, you didn’t have to write a letter. You didn’t have to actually speak to them.

I once read an article by Laura Ingalls Wilder complaining about the telephone and how it had interfered with socialization. People didn’t go and visit their friends anymore because they would just pick up the phone: so there was no longer the need for hospitality of the same level as what she had experienced growing up. As I sat at the table and listened to this young woman talk about how wonderful it was to not have to actually speak to her friends, I felt sad.

As much as I encourage people to use Facebook and Twitter and other social networks for marketing and building their tribes, I also want to remember to remind people to engage with friends. While you may know what’s going on with your friends, they haven’t heard your voice. They haven’t seen your face and they may not know that you’re there caring about what’s going on.

I think in this world of Internet focus, we need to make the effort to actively engage with our friends. There is an art to writing a letter that needs to be revived.

People need the personal touch. More now than ever.

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