Fans, followers & true friends

Mark Shaefer, the author of Marketing Rebellion, sent an email to me about “losing a friend to cancer” recently. I haven’t been able to shake it all day. Of course losing someone to cancer is tragic, but it was his observation about the fact that she died essentially alone, with only a volunteer from “No One Dies Alone” at her side, absent of family and friends, despite being genuinely connected online with many Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and over 15,000 followers on Twitter. Mark freely admitted she was a typical social media friend, known on a superficial level, but never in person, or having talked on the phone. This despite offering regular comments on his blog and on posts, where she routinely challenged gurus and forged the conversation forward with others.

Social media bubbled along without her that day and will continue to do so. She had many connections, but they were connections without accountability. Where they really true friends?

(The above video segment was the inspiration for this post – check it out!)

I was at my Mom’s side until the very end when she died just short of her 93rd birthday a couple years ago. I laid with her in the hospital bed, and can think of nothing more she would have wanted, and what I would have been there to give her. Many other family and friends were also there for her in person and by phone. She was a genuine collector and connector. And she nurtured those contacts throughout life in person and by phone – much to the amusement of those subjected to her hard of hearing phone calls as she aged! She had a laptop and was online, but never had a social media account. She didn’t need one.

As many regular readers know, my son is a professional athlete, with followers masquerading as friends across platforms, many of whom he does not know. He has struggled with how superficial it all is, as well as accepting sponsor funds for travel with the obligation to post and thank, regardless of the competitive outcome. He has seen first-hand the toll it takes on the mental health of others too, and yet they all bubble along like life is grand.

Where am I going with all this? Last week in my Sunday morning newsletter, I wrote about deepening connections on social media through thoughtful comments, increased direct messaging, and looking to expand in person connections through live events.  The topic resonated with many, so I started to think about a way to take it further…

Pat Flynn speaks about 1,000 true fans (those people that regularly engage, open emails, refer or buy your stuff) being the basis of supporting a business. But how about taking those 1,000 (or 500 depending on your list) fans, and turning them into true friends? Friends that appreciate your work, that you actually know, could engage a non-superficial conversation, and have met in person? That’s the challenge I’m considering putting out there for myself – meeting in person, if I haven’t already, or engaging in a face-to-face Zoom call if they’re in another time zone or hemisphere, that 40-50% who regularly open and engage with Sunday morning emails. It’s about going deeper rather then broader. Expanding the list is always a goal, but deepening the connection will no doubt benefit us both in the future – whatever that might look like.  It’s a longer-term play. But that’s what friends do.

What do you think? Will this be time well spent? Or should I just go off and churn out more content on more platforms like everyone else? (Ok, I’m a little bias with that set up, but I’m genuinely curious what you think) My hunch is it will be a great way to differentiate, simply because few other’s will invest the time doing it.

Zig when they’re all zagging. I’ll keep you posted!

Mary Charleson

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