I’ve never paid much attention to the belief that it’s a bad idea to develop friendships with co-workers and customers because a personal relationship might damage the professional relationship. Actually, I think a personal relationship only strengthens the professional bond between two people.
I also believe that the best way to reinforce relationships is face-to-face contact. When that’s not possible, just get on the phone and say what has to be said, or, even better, just call to say hello.
Because I like face-to-face or “just pick up the phone” relationships, I’ve got to admit that I haven’t been the best social media advocate, despite the growing trend. But, I’m beginning to get the big social media picture, especially after reading results from a recent Forrester Research Survey.
The survey, conducted online July 2011, included 60,000 participants. The results finally rattled my cage and I now have a greater appreciation for the force of social networks.
According to the survey, of all the social networks, Facebook is the only one that knows no generational limits (it includes users from preteen to 65+). Facebook is also the largest of the social networks. In fact, of U.S. adults who use social networking sites, 96% of them are on Facebook! Does that surprise you as much as it surprised me?
The second most-used social network is LinkedIn, used by 28% of the U.S. adult online population. LinkedIn, naturally, is used mostly by business professionals for networking and employment. But, this was most surprising to me: despite all the hoopla surrounding it, Twitter comes in at a weak third among U.S adults online.
What does all this mean to business people like us? First, there’s a good chance that many of our customers are on Facebook. Second, those of us who think like entrepreneurs should be connecting with customers who are on Facebook and LinkedIn. We should use social networks as another way to stay in touch with our customers, so that we may gain a greater understanding of what issues motivate them, what their personal relationships mean to them, and how we can be of help. (NOTE: This doesn’t mean that, as business people, we should all go off and friend anyone who asks us. We should make “friends” cautiously. Next week I’ll tell you a short story about the dark side to the corporate use of social media.)
Does using Facebook and LinkedIn mean we ignore the more intimate forms of communication, like invites to lunch or dinner, face-to-face meetings, or a simple phone call to co-workers and customers? Absolutely — no! But social media, a great tool in the business of marketing our products, should be used to reinforce our professional relationships, too.