Data Is a Commodity—Your Relationships Shouldn’t Be
Despite the commoditization of so much in our lives, relationships shouldn’t be categorized in such a way. People want to be recognized, and uniquely so. The prevalence of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, has enabled us to express ourselves online like never before. Isn’t it great that people are so willing to share more personal information about themselves? They provide us with a means to learn more about them as a result. More than ever before we’re able to gain knowledge about a person, and as such obtain a better baseline of who they really are. But having their information is one thing, what we do with it is another.
Filling that gap between public (or pseudo public) information and the information we gather in person separates an acquaintance from something more meaningful. Filling that gap also distinguishes us from others, especially in contrast to our competition where the relationships are in their early stages from a professional perspective. After all, that same competition has access to the same information and therein lies your opportunity for a more meaningful and closer relationship. Toward this end, let me share three insights with you that are sure to help:
1. Knowing the data is vastly different from knowing how to use the data.
As I already pointed out, relationships will never progress solely based upon knowing information people post or share about themselves on social media sites. Whether or not someone likes to cook or whether they have traveled to a certain locale may be a starting point to a conversation, but it’s the connection two people make when exchanging information that drives toward a stronger connection. Consider how inspiring, motivating and encouraging it can be to read a great autobiography. You’ve gained information and insight the author chose to share, but do they feel connected to you as a reader? Most certainly not. Even when a conversation is dominated by one person sharing information with the other, when done in-person, both parties are more in tune with what is being shared and how it is being received.
2. The data is most beneficial when it’s used to create a unique connection.
Perceive the user-provided data as a starting point, not an end point. Fundamentally, what people share expresses their interests and passions. To form a mutual connection, there must be more than knowledge of their interest. Asking someone to elaborate on an experience or interest can be a great ice-breaker to a new acquaintance, but when you have something to add or share to the exchange, it is no longer only about them. It becomes a mutually beneficial exchange.
3. Use the data you have as a springboard, not a hammock.
Having an interest in others such that you investigated their posts has to go beyond that initial “share” in order to form a lasting connection. How? It’s simple! Get them to talk about themselves pertinent to something you already know about them. For example, it’s one thing to know that someone likes international traveling. You may like it too, even if you’ve yet to experience it. Regardless, express your interest in their interest and ask them where they’ve been, what they enjoyed about it, if they would recommend going there, and if so, what to see and do. It helps them “open up,” and more precisely it causes them to warm up to you. When people open up to others, the path to greater relationship value exists.
Use technology and the streams of information about people as a springboard, not a hammock. Don’t be lazy in your effort to really get to know others. Take the initiative to you share more than a mutual interest. Consider what you have to offer, either personally or professionally. Your sphere of resources and influence, in other words your “network,” can set you apart from all the others vying for attention.
Social media is mostly public media. Even the data you collect personally is still only data until you use it in a meaningful way. To do so, be genuine: Genuinely interested in what you can provide to others. Genuinely concerned that the relationship is mutually beneficial. Genuinely true to who you are as well. Data may be a commodity, but a person shouldn’t be.