What If We Treated Our Social Relationships As If They Were Real?

By yellowleaf

February 7, 2017

Okay, here’s the deal up front… there is nothing revolutionary about this post. You’ve probably heard all of this or pieces of this before. But before you stop reading, just know that we firmly believe anything worthy of being remembered is worth repeating. Over here, we’re still mulling over how 2017 may look different in our personal lives and in the life of our business than it has in years passed. And one question has been racing around in my mind: “What if we treated our social relationships as if they were real?”

Here’s the thing: when Danny and I joined social networks well over a decade ago, we used them as a way to digitally communicate with people we were actually friends with. There was an already existing relationship. Let’s take Facebook for example; that’s how we connected with our high school and college friends online and visually kept up with them when we weren’t physically with them. For example, we posted pictures like this when we thought this kind of thing was funny. (Side note: One of us still does think this kind of thing is funny 🙂


At the time, we didn’t know that one day social networks would be a forum for making judgments and starting arguments. We believed they would help us stay better connected. But lately they’ve become a platform to divide us.

It’s becoming increasingly hard to scroll the socials and see the way we treat each other. We ignore, we poke fun, we disrespect, we call people names, we don’t listen, we boast, and then we forget what we said and we start all over. And the reality is, I don’t think we would do these same things if we were actually in the presence of the people we are actually talking to online, some of which we have a real relationship with and some of which we do not. I know this because when we sit around the dinner table with another family that we disagree with on most things, but one we love dearly, we don’t do these things. Do you?

Back in the day when businesses started using social media to reach potential customers, marketing experts wrote a lot about social etiquette for both individuals and for companies. I think it would serve us well to reacquaint ourselves with some social etiquette. So I am humbly suggesting that this year we work to treat our social relationships as if they were real by doing these 4 things:

Observe – Imagine you’re meeting someone for the first time or you’re meeting up with an old friend or you’re going to a party where you meet a whole new crew of people. What do you do? You observe appearance and body language–looking for clues that tell you more about who that person is, what the person cares about, and maybe how that person is feeling. You pay attention to the details. You do this so that you have a better chance of connecting with that person by finding common interests and things to talk about.

Observation Tip– Before you enter a social conversation either personally or on behalf of your business, pay attention to the details of what someone is saying. Don’t let a snippet of what someone said set you off or allow you to discount a potential customer just because you disagree. Do your homework and always assume the best about people.

Listen In order to actually cultivate a relationship with someone, you have to hear what they are saying. This is an area where I long to grow. I am not the best listener that ever walked the earth. Danny reminded me of that recently during our weekly team meeting when he said to me, “You remember when you asked me for some podcasts to listen to a couple of days ago? I thought psshhhh, she’ll never take the time to really listen to a podcast.” While this may be slightly offensive, it may also be true and something I needed to hear…partially because I am easily distracted from listening well by other things that must get done in my day that take up mental space (and partially because I’m just not great at listening).

Listening Tip – Here is what I know: when I take the time to listen and really hear what my friends are saying, our relationship is strengthened and it provides me an opportunity to really speak into their life. The same goes for social. When we take the time to really listen to what people we connect with online are saying, then our words resonate and form a deeper connection that might forge the way to a real friendship or mutually beneficial business relationship.

Respond & Relate – Proverbs says that words have the power to bring life or death, and the way we respond to someone can usher life or death into our relationship with them. Do we want to reply to our friends in a way that may stunt the growth of the relationship or do we want that relationship to continue to flourish?

Response & Relate Tip – If we want our social relationships to flourish in the way that our real relationships do, then our words should be seasoned with Grace. That way, the person we’re chatting with can actually hear what we are saying. We also need to say things that actually relate to the thing we’re discussing and don’t take us on a wild goose chase. I for one don’t know many wild goose chases that ended well.

Follow Up This one is pretty simple…our relationships wouldn’t sustain themselves if you or the person that you have a relationship with doesn’t follow up. You have to continually follow up on the last conversation that was had or your relationship becomes stagnant. Eventually, you may no longer even be considered a friend.

Follow Up Tip If someone shares something with you or your business online that is personal, important, or really anything at all, we’re quick to reply. But if you really want to create a WOW moment, follow up with them after a reasonable amount of time goes by. This shows you actually care about them and that your social experience isn’t all about what you have to say. This is why marketing automation is magical for businesses because it allows them to follow up with their customers in a personal way. And here’s the deal – if businesses can do it, then so can individuals.

Here’s to hoping that our social relationships begin to look more like real relationships this year!

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