Facebook has done an amazing thing – they now own the word “friend”.  The problem is that they have devalued the word while adding value to their brand. Let’s take back the word “friend” and fill it with value again!

How many of you use “air quotes” when you say so-and-so is your Facebook “friend”?  That’s exactly my point.  The word now, more often than not, just means that you exchanged a keystroke with someone.

To be clear — I am not saying that connecting through Facebook is a bad thing; I’m saying that few of us actually take the time to connect in the ways that a real friend would.  We are missing the chance to use social media as a tool that facilitates real relationships and instead using “friends” as points in a popularity contest.

So how do we change this?  Let’s start with breaking completely out of our online world for a moment and do something really cutting edge: pick up the TELEPHONE and CALL someone.  Make someone feel special by connecting voice to voice with them and having a real-time conversation.

Then take everything you know about face-to-face relationships and bring them back with you online:

1.         A friend is not just an audience. 

Friendship is not a one-way information push; it is a two-way interaction loop. Ask questions, listen to and HEAR the answers, ask more questions.  It takes ongoing interaction to get a clear path through the digital noise out there!

2.         A friend is not just a number.

Think about how many times you hear television ads that end with “to us, you are not just a number, you’re a person”  (except for SleepNumber Mattresses, who play with that and say “to us, you’re not just a person, you’re a number!”).  The point is to remember that each interaction involves a real person.  Yes, I do have over 2800 Facebook friends, but I do pay attention and respond to all comments and postings on my walls and photos.  Does it take time?  It sure does, but all real relationships take time, so I would expect nothing less!

3.         A friend has shared interests.

Friends connect around shared interests, which attract additional friendships that turn into communities of interest.  YOU are the hub of your personal social media “community of interest,” so consider it your responsibility to provide content relevant to your friends interests.  Hint: if you are authentic in your online and offline “profiles,” what you are naturally inclined to share will automatically be of interest to your friends.  Save yourself some effort and just be genuine from the beginning!

4.         Friendships require maintenance.

We are all calling these tools “social media,” yet we are becoming LESS social!  Facebook status updates do not count as a relationship.  Back and forth conversation ABOUT your status update, however, is a much more social interaction.  But don’t let it end there.  Take the initiative to reach out and GIVE value rather than expecting everyone to come to you…remember, friendship requires an ongoing flow of giving and receiving.

5.         Do unto others…

The way you engage with people makes an impression no matter what tool you are using.  Look at your own behaviors and ask yourself, “Would I want to be my friend??”  Are you noticing and affirming the value of individuals and groups in your network? Are you genuinely interested and paying attention to the people behind the texts and words on a screen?  Are you going out of your way to be of service to others in your network?  That’s the kind of friend I would want to have and to be.

A real friend is not just a number and a photo on the screen.  Remember that next time you’re on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or blogging or ANYtime!) and do what it takes to be a friend.  One by one, we can take back the word “friend”!

‎”Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~Anais Nin


Note:  I will be speaking on this topic (Let’s take back the word “Friend”) with Peter Shankman at Social Media World Forum Nov 1st (10:10am) .  Hope to see you there!


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