Gini Dietrich

Social Media is Relationships; It’s Not Selling

By: Gini Dietrich | December 9, 2009 | 

Yesterday we discussed the philosophy of social media: How do you have conversations with people in order to build better relationships?

And there were a lot of great comments:

* Johnnie Firari says, “Through relationships you can now gain/earn back something that was lost: Brand loyalty!”

* Les Lent says, “The tools (in my humble opinion) are great ways to make connections and starting, developing, and maintaining relationships with clients, employees, and prospects. Make the connection, build the relationship, and the sales will follow.”

* Sherrick Murdoff says, “I would also add that you have to give (e.g. share) to get. It’s helpful to share posts you like via Twitter, share your views via comments, share your thoughts, and give your audience something to discuss. If you give them a reason to engage, you will find discussions happen and relationships are built.”

Great, great comments! And Sherrick offers some really actionable advice.

But people still don’t understand this is NOT just another way to sell your wares. The people who say “buy me, buy me, buy me” in the social channels lose credibility and, eventually, no one will care about them.

I liken social media to a networking event. I ask business leaders, “What is the first thing you do when you go to a networking event?” After the smart alecks in the room say, “Get a drink!”, we get to “We introduce ourselves to someone new.”

So then I ask, “Do you say, ‘Buy my wares!’ or do you ask questions, listen to what the other person has to say, and develop a conversation?” Of course, it’s always the latter.

Social media is not any different than a networking event. The philosophy is the same – you meet new people, you ask questions, and you listen. You decide if you’re going to be friends, if you can do business together, or if you can be a referral source for one another.

The only difference between social media and in person networking is that, with social media, you can sit behind a computer screen in your PJs and uncombed hair and no one will know the difference. You now have the opportunity to network 24/7.

Pretty powerful stuff, huh?

One thing I caution you on, though. Lots and lots of people think that it’s better to have a large number of followers, fans, and connections because they believe this is like traditional marketing – the more people they have access to, the more will hear their message.


If you are focused on gaining as many fans, followers, and connections as you can (you can actually pay a service to do this for you) and not on starting conversations, networking, and building relationships, you will not be successful.

You know what that’s like? It’s like the guy at the networking event who everyone hates to see coming their way and they avoid like the plague because they know they’ll be stuck there listening to this guy talk about how great he is and never ask a question about you. You know the guy, don’t you? He gets your card and he spams you constantly. You never do business with him. You’re always looking for ways to avoid him.

It doesn’t matter if you have 30 followers or 30,000. If you provide valuable content. If you start conversations. If you listen to what people are doing and saying. If you engage with people as human beings. If you build relationships. Social media will be successful for you.

People want to do business with people they like. Use the social media tools to help you become more efficient at having better relationships and you’ll achieve everything you set out to do online.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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  • Absolutely relationships are at the heart of Social Media. For those whose roles traditionally require relationship building, Social Media can also be seen as providing a barrier breaking, BDM Managers’ dream networking toolset.

    Bringing online networking offline and vice versa is very powerful. So much is my conviction that I wrote an article on the subject and has been the topic of parties countrywide ever since! Even one of the country’s top education providers’ CEO was forwarded it within hours of its despatch.

    So folks, please tell me wth you think of the thoughts on Social Media inside this magazine’s issue here

  • Gini,

    I’ve always said I have a face for radio; now that I can network in my PJ’s and uncombed hair I realize I also have a face for Social Media :-).

    Seriously, you’re right on. As someone who guides and builds sales teams for growing mid-market companies, I’d add that selling, done well, is about relationships, not selling. .

    The guiding rule is as old as time – if you first position yourself to help others, others will find ways to help you.

  • Some good comments on building relationships. My #1 conversation tactic: shut up and listen. Listening is the best way to learn: about new things, what people do, what they need and how I can help them.

    It’s the “Me, Me, Me” hard sell types that will struggle with social media. Those that make real connections, that listen to others and give back will benefit the most from developing SM relationships.

  • Bingo. That is all.

  • Well done Gini,

    Relationships start with Hello,are cultivated by listening and sharing ideas, concerns, mutual interests and develop when one person provides value to another. This all happens BEFORE and often REGARDLESS of monetary considerations. Once this has taken place we place a value on those relationships which can then be monetized in business or sold. You don’t, and can’t effectively mass produce the customization of the relationship that occurs before monetization. Consequently, although it is nice to have lots of connections, the real value comes in the depth and substance of those connections. From an old simple guys point of view. Once again thanks for a great post.

  • Gini, companies just don’t get it yet and they are spurred in the wrong direction by all the social media “experts” out there who also don’t get it (or get it but want to exploit the naivety of their clients).

    The good news is everyone will learn what works and what doesn’t. The bad news is Twitter could be sunk if it is overwhelmed by marketing, especially guerrilla marketing that is sneaking in.

  • Gini Dietrich

    As always, great comments here!

    The frustrating part to me is what Doug aays – companies are being spurred in the wrong direction by the so-called “experts.” I read an article the other day (can’t remember where now) that said if you have to call yourself an expert, you are not. If you do your job, and do it well, others will call you an expert. It’s like walking into a room and telling everyone you’re the smartest person there. If you have to say it, you clearly are not.

    I still contend Twitter is going to be a bunch of PR people talking to a bunch of PR people (or MLMers). But that’s okay because we’ll be focused on the relationships and not the tools.

  • Hi Gini –
    I call that guy Type OO (output only)
    No one wants to do business with a type OO !!
    Thanks for the great post.

  • I like the focus on quality vs. quantity – very hard to get marketers to change. It’s the conventional wisdom that you need tons of leads to make sales. Real engagement in social media should drive your conversion % higher so you don’t need the staggering volume. Besides, who really enjoys 1%-2% conversion on efforts like direct mail?

    Thanks for the quote!

  • I could not agree more! In my world as a “Career Coach” (or whatever else you want to call me since that title means different things to different people and I don’t particularly care for it) I do a ton of “networking.” Most people understand, whether they agree with it or not, that building a career is often more about who you know than what you know. However, far too many people wait to start “networking” until they have lost their job, fear they will lose it, or want to set themselves up for a new one. In those scenarios, people may be sympathetic to your situation, but they will resist your “sales-pitch” as you desperately flail around, hands empty in anticipation of a hand out from someone who you think can help you. Social media is a terrific way to expand your network. However, for those people who are looking to develop their careers or find a job, go back and read this great advice from Gini, an EXPERT communicator who I have only met on Twitter, have come to respect greatly, and enjoy tweeting with about a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with how each of us makes money:

    “It doesn’t matter if you have 30 followers or 30,000. If you provide valuable content. If you start conversations. If you listen to what people are doing and saying. If you engage with people as human beings. If you build relationships. Social media will be successful for you.”

    By the way, if Gini does not sincerely consider me a friend, that is ok with me because she always treats me like one (instead of a potential customer or “contact”.) As a result, I have chosen to be a friend to her-even if she never does anything for me directly. Marketing/PR/Sales people please go back, read that last sentence again, and let it sink in. I know, it’s hard for you to comprehend because you can’t run analytics on the relationship and then spin hard data to impress your boss, which therefore seems like a complete waste of time. However, that is how this social media thing works. It is about PEOPLE, not products. When the reverse becomes true, the PEOPLE will find somewhere else to go. Then you really will be a bunch of sales people pitching product to one another.

    As always, thanks for the great insight Gini. I always look forward to reading your blog!

  • What if we taught sales people how to use social media to build and nurture relations?

  • Gini Dietrich

    Richard, it’s my daily goal to teach sales people this philosophy.

  • I definitely agree that social media is about relationships. I would also say that selling is too. The problem is that the “buy me” people don’t know how to sell. Trying to teach them social media might even be more work. A good salesman today is building relationships, whether it’s through social media or networking. The hard sell doesn’t and hasn’t worked for a long time. Unfortunately, people don’t spend enough time learning how to sell properly and instead think they can hard sell there way to making money. Then they disappear because they aren’t in business any more. The same thing happens with social media except that it’s even easier to tell someone to go away because you’re not face to face with them.

  • Gini Dietrich

    CJ – GREAT analogy of how social media works in the offline world!