Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Good Are Social Media Friends, Anyway?

In the last week of the mid-term elections, I thought it was interesting to see one of the local politicians touting how many Facebook friends he had collected. In fact, he was quick to point out how many more friends he had than his opponent, like that somehow proved his political ability.
What good are social media friends? Apparently when it comes to being elected for public office, not much.
That candidate lost, and he wasn't alone.
Take, for example, Christine O'Donnell (R) from Delaware and her opponent, Chris Coons (D). O'Donnell had almost three times the Facebook friends (25,809 vs. 9,523). She ended up losing the real race by 16%, a huge political landslide.
This wasn't the only case. The races were littered with similar stories, like Brad Ellsworth (D) from Indiana, who had twice as many Facebook Likes than his opponent, Dan Coats (R). Coats won the election by 15%, yet another landslide.
There is a clear lesson here for businesses, many of which are racing (like Titanic guests searching for rescue boats) to build their Likes and Friends. The lesson: these so-called friends mean nothing to your ultimate success or failure.
I'm not saying don't utilize social media, and I'm not saying it is not a valuable tool. What I am saying is that business is about personal relationships. The businesses and politicians that succeed (in the real world, not the social world) build those personal relationships and actually connect with people in a very personal way. Just because you are on my Facebook list doesn't create a personal relationship. It's no different than being on my mailing list or email list. Many businesses these days are focused on getting as many Likes (friends) as possible, whether they are customers in their target market or not. How smart is that strategy?
With many businesses spending resources and lots of time building these networks, I hope they all took a look at the midterm elections. There were more messages sent than just political.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

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