Real Friends Versus Social Media Friends

Learn how to treat your social media friends.

Aliza Sherman
4-minute read
Episode #94

Are you my friend? I'm not talking about “friend” with quotation marks. I mean really, truly my friend?

Back to friends versus “friends.” What's the difference and how should you treat them both?

The Main Differences Between Friends and “Friends”

In social media, we can all accumulate Friends, Fans, and Followers, but how do we know where social media connectivity ends and true friendship begins? Here's my quick and dirty litmus test for knowing the difference between friends and “friends.”

Test 1: How well do you know them?

Test 2: How much do you care about them?

Test 3: How much do they care about you?

Okay, I admit, these are loaded questions. Because anyone who has met someone and gotten to know them online will tell you that they really, really know that other person--even if they've never technically met them face to face. And anyone who has built a community and interacted intimately with that community or with members of that community solely online will also tell you that they do really, truly care. And anyone who has been through anything in “real life”--and again, emphasis on the quotation marks--will tell you that once they posted their situations online, their social media “friends” rallied around them like nobody's business.

So can we really make such simplistic distinctions between friends and “friends?”

Here are a few more test questions for you:

Test 4: Would you take a bullet for them?

Test 5: Would they take a bullet for you?

I think I mean both of these questions both figuratively and literally. Taking a bullet figuratively for both friends and “friends”? Yes, I think many of us would. Taking a bullet literally? Maybe I've found the threshold that separates friends from “friends.” I believe that most of us would literally take a bullet for our family, our loved ones, and our very, very dear friends.

My favorite networking advice is “Ask not what someone else can do for you. Ask what you can do for them.”

But would you take a literal bullet for someone you knew through social networks and social media channels only? Imagine you just met a person who is your friend on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn and suddenly you are both being held up at gunpoint and the gun goes off. Would you jump in front of that social media “friend” of yours and risk your life saving theirs?

I don't think I have an easy answer to this, but in my heart of hearts, I think my instinct in this case would be self preservation. If it were my 3-year-old daughter, I'd take the bullet. My husband? I'd hope he would take it for me because he's a really big guy. But if he were incapacitated, I'd take it for him, too.

How to Treat Social Media “Friends”?

I don't think any of us have to die or jump in front of a bullet for our social media “friends” to prove how valuable they are to us. Here are a few simple things we can do to prove it: 

  1. Provide them with genuine value. You wouldn't show up at a friend's house with a regifted fruitcake would you? Okay, some people think regifting is perfectly fine. But fruitcake? Sorry fruitcake lovers. Remember: value in social media is more about them than about you.

  2. Be respectful of them. Even if they are your “friend,” you still need to be polite, kind, and respectful of their time. Friendship doesn't give you carte blanche to disrespect someone else. Friends aren't here to serve you or to be used by you. People are usually willing to be your Friend, Fan, or Follower until you're rude to them or just plain mean.

  3. Network with them. My favorite networking advice is “Ask not what someone else can do for you. Ask what you can do for them.” Interact. It isn't just about engaging--it is about interacting with genuine interest in their needs.

  4. Introduce them to others. Friends don't let friends go un-introduced when the introduction makes good sense for both parties.

  5. Be a friend. Care. Don't BS people, especially if you're trying to sell them something. Social media friends will see through your ruse.

Bottom Line: People who need people... Alright, enough of the Barbra. “Friends” are important to all of us, whether we know them online or off. If you want to keep your “Friends,” treat them like friends.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today.

I've put some resources on The Digital Marketer website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com including a link to my friend C.C. Chapman's podcast about friends that he recorded in 2007.

If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, e-mail me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com.

And I'm answering questions and having a party over on my Facebook Page at Facebook.com/thedigitalmarketer so stop by and become a Fan or a friend. Or you can follow me at Twitter.com/alizasherman to get links to the latest information about digital marketing and social media.

And remember you can download this podcast so easily on iTunes and subscribe to it for free.

Hey, you can hire me as a keynote speaker or workshop leader at your next event. Visit Macmillanspeakers.com/alizasherman for more information.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com. I'm your host, Aliza Sherman, signing off for now.

Tune in for another business boost from The Digital Marketer, the host who's not afraid to go under the Internet's hood & get a little dirty! ?


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Author Marjorie M Liu Appearing on Athena Isle, Second Life - http://pitch.pe/20305.

World of Friends image courtesy of Shutterstock