What’s a friend? And what’s a Facebook friend?

My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life. – Lee Iacocca

In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends. – John Churton Collins

Yep, sounds just like most of the “friends” I’m connecting with on Facebook. Or maybe friendship ain’t what it used to be.

A story

My brother, Mike Cohen, is a leading Chicago realtor. He recently complained that a local mortgage broker he had never met had the nerve to try to befriend him on Facebook.

Mike, a top-notch professional with a lot of drive, is a Type A who gets especially frustrated in rush-hour traffic and multitasks at high speed. He was livid.

“How dare he want to be my friend!” he roared. “He doesn’t want to be my friend, he just wants my mortgage business.”

I was taken aback.

As a devoted student of social marketing, I am finding that offers of friendship from people who have a specific business goal in mind are the norm. I used to cringe at the falsity, but now I’m right in there too, considering how to use FB more effectively to build my list and monetize my relationships.

I haven’t been using Facebook to develop work relationships aggressively. Instead I use LinkedIn, where the assumption is that getting acquainted may lead to professional liaisons of various types.

But it confirms my feeling that the way to approach a relationship in either channel is to suggest professional relevance without downright propositioning for business at the first exchange.

A simple “let’s be friends” seems dishonest and manipulative when both sides know that true friendship is unlikely.

And a business proposition is premature and pushy for people who have no relationship whatsoever.

I prefer an in-between path. Something like “I’d like to connect with you since you are a leading realtor in my market.”

For now, I’m trying to increase my comfort with the nature of Facebook relationships. To date I have preferred LinkedIn over Facebook for this purpose since I’m still defining how I’ll use a website that has so many uses, mixing too many flavors in the stew to come out with a tasty product.

Want to read more?

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