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  • Social Media Friends, an Oxymoron?

    Short of being a known serial killer who’s lost his Internet privileges, anyone can get introduced to you. You’re probably on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and otherwise connected in much less than six degrees to every soul on the planet, with more being born every day. Isn’t that why you’re building your personal brand?

    What do you make of these “connections” or offers of “friendship?” And, do you really feel “followed?” on Twitter? I’ve actually been followed in real life and they arrested the guy. It was scary. I wish Twitter had chosen another word.

    3245114213_62c13c8f85The definition of friends has changed?

    Certainly, these relationships start off feeling contrived, mostly because they aren’t earned. It’s like sitting on a bus last Tuesday, and because there were other people on that bus, inviting those people – and people who know them – to a reunion the following week where you all share your personal photo albums. Only, the reunion is held in a complete stranger’s house in a town you only pass through when you’re bored or can’t sleep, and someone keeps shouting: Lose Weight Fast! or whatever messages you get on Facebook.

    I may just be feeling this now because a bunch of people who know people who know me requested my friendship on Facebook today.  Some of them took unfortunately scary photos, not Halloween scary, just unattractive. Not everyone is photogenic or realizes a photo is worth a thousand words about your personal brand, so these may actually be extremely good-looking people in real life.

    But, I felt obligated to click on their faces in order to scrutinize who were our alleged mutual friends. Turns out each request came from a person who is a friend of a friend of a friend of mine. I have slowly inherited other people’s friends, and probably so have you. So, I welcomed everyone to read my angry posts about healthcare and the war, as well as what I occasionally cook for dinner or feel you should know about the weather in Southern California. You know, my posts.

    3921363707_5544de929aBuild the bridge to make it real

    What’s it going to take to really connect and warm up to the people we’re linked to or following as we build something real from our personal branding efforts? It’s probably like real life. We’re probably going to have to care about each other. Argue a little. Be bored but still willing to listen. Occasionally, be shocked. Just like we are with our real friends.

    But, we have to work to bridge that empty feeling factor.  So much personal brand outreach feels like getting the can without the Coke inside.

    The worst for me is my LoserIn groups, which is what LinkedIn groups feel like, since 98% of the questions my fellow group members ask are getting goose eggs in terms of response. Sometimes I feel bad enough for the person who’s posted the question, that I give a pity response. That’s like pity applause when the only people laughing during Jay Leno are the people he pays, like Kevin Eubanks. And by the way, what a lonely, empty hour that is! I did some pity watching one night, but ran out of pity before the first commercial.

    Jay Leno isn’t funny, but he plays the part of someone who should be funny. He is sort of funny looking like most comedians are. He has a prepared monologue filled with snipes about men sleeping with women who aren’t their wives. He has the same tiresome celebrity guests who couldn’t possible enjoy making the rounds of these shows, and a band leader.

    This is a show just filling airtime.

    Results or just activity?

    A lot of social media sites are the same. They are filling airtime. They really aren’t helping most people do the work of personal branding, which is to make a lasting impression and engage an audience.3219185179_551785d247

    My real friends will help me move my couch. My real connections will tip me off about a great new supplier or potential client. I bring soup to my real friends who are ill. I tell my real network about job openings they can apply for and new projects they can bid on, and encourage them to use my name if it helps their cause.

    I think this would be a good week go through your friends, followers and connections list and see if there’s anything you can do for anyone. You might make a real friend, which could just be more valuable right now than the financial ROI we’re all waiting to see come from personal branding and social media.


    Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen.


    Nance Rosen, MBA is author of Speak Up! & Succeed: How to get everything you want in meetings, presentations and conversations. She blogs at NanceRosenBlog.com. She is also on the faculty of the UCLA Business and Management continuing executive education program. Formerly, Nance was a marketing executive at the Coca-Cola Company, president of the Medical Marketing Association, first woman director of marketing in the Fortune 500 technology sector, host of International Business on public radio and NightCap on television, an entrepreneur and a general manager at Bozell Advertising and Public Relations (now Omnicom).

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    7 comments on “Social Media Friends, an Oxymoron?
    1. avatar
      Jason says:

      Nance, this was a great read to kick off the day. I often go through the list of my friends on Facebook and Twitter to see who is “following” me. Facebook has allowed me to keep up with old friends and current ones. Twitter has allowed me to get to know, per se, some people I wouldn’t have the chance to chat with in public. For example, I follow Dan Schawbel as well as Ryan Paugh from Brazen. I take their advice and posts and use them in my own career. Without Twitter, I would not have found them. I do have people that follow me that I automatically delete because they are spammers or serial retweeters that don’t really contribute to the conversation.
      Social media sites are a wonderful way to continue a conversation or start one, market your brand or yourself. It has helped me find new avenues in my career. By the way, can I be your friend on Twitter? 🙂 Thanks for the great blog! Have a great day.

    2. avatar
      yinka olaito says:

      A generous and humble persoanl brand can build greater bridges across border..I think we must keep on being good even if some of our ‘friends’ are taking advantages of us

    3. avatar
      Scott says:

      This is a great post. We are becoming overwhelmed with the number of “contacts” that we have, but how well do we know these people, and how do we ensure that we ARE reaching to people who are potentially important to us?

      Check out http://www.networkhippo.com – its a personal CRM system that crawls your social networks, connects to your email, and helps you identify and stay in contact with your most important contacts. Oh, and its free.

    4. avatar
      Bret Simmons says:

      Excelent advice! Finally someone that is getting the advice about friends right. Build bridges not walls – I love that!

    5. avatar

      Thanks Nance, I think the world needed this post. A few thoughts:

      1. Sorry to hear about your stalker. Sounds scary! Hope that worked out safely for you.
      2. LinkedIn is for networking. I think it’s fine to connect with someone you just met at a conference, social event, on the train, etc.
      3. Facebook, is not, IMO. I prefer to connect with friends there, not acquaintances, like you mentioned. (Ex. At least 3 times a month, I get friend requests from 3rd cousins I’ve never met in the Philippines. It’ so annoying.)
      4. LinkedIn recommendations serve as one of your best personal branding tools.

    6. avatar

      Regarding oxymoron, I think there are a few of them which are perfect. All social media is still limited to some point.

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