Why Facebook/Twitter/IM/Blogging etc. Might Actually Be Significant for Relationship Building

Marty shows yet again why he is one of the keenest observers in the nonprofit technology space:

Direct online interaction robs the very important inattentive trust building components to relationships. Twitter, facebook, etc. provide a unique window into watching someone without paying direct attention to them. How many of you log on to do work late at night and “see” in AIM list and Skype list folks that are still online working. Does that over time build your relationship with that person in any way? Does a facebook update on someone going hiking at a place you have hiked before influence your interaction with that person next time you meet even thought you never discuss the hike? Yes.

What if they were taking jazz lessons? What if they twittered they picked up a new Hummer? or bagged a black bear on the first day of the season? You might never bring it up in a work context or direct interaction but you know it is there and your brain files it in the mix. It is inattentive. They were not telling you. They were not looking for a reaction. They were just letting you see if you cared.

One of the key components of network health is social ties. There may be passive network building strategies that should be tested and deployed within a campaign context that help foster building inattentive trust. Such activities might include micro blogging activities and work, shared calendars, regular questions asked about non-campaign related activities and republishing the information back across the network.

The tools are catching up very slowly to all the complex needs we have to understand one another. We need to be aware of the opportunity they present to enable us to build more powerful network capacity even in inattentive and passive ways.

This feels really right to me.

6 thoughts on “Why Facebook/Twitter/IM/Blogging etc. Might Actually Be Significant for Relationship Building”

  1. Jon,
    I’m still feeling lukewarm about how some of these tools will impact the sector – partly because I have a fear (not based on anything in particular) that for many, social networking sites replace rather than augment – and because some of the glue that makes things work in our sector (perhaps any community) is also the things that we don’t know about our stakeholders – that they frequent a gun shop, that they vote Democrat, that they (add in whatever might upset your apple cart).
    I’m keeping an open mind as best I can. Maybe it’s just because I joined Friendster the week before it turned into a dating site!

  2. This is so very true! I was linked over from Jeremiah Owyang’s post on Facebook and when I was commenting there I was thinking this exact same thing!
    http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2007/08/11/web-strategy-what-the-web-strategist-should-know-about-facebook/
    Take for example Robert Scoble. On Facebook he provides updates & because of that, I know that they’re expecting a baby in Sept. Does this matter? No, but as a woman, I pay attention to those details. It makes people more ‘human’ and interesting. One morning I saw that a coworker had uploaded photos & after viewing them, we had a conversation where I learned a lot of his culture & traditions. Twitter is even more so in this respect. The brief glimpses add to the persona of who you’re following. I just added Chris Brogan after seeing some of his Twitters on Facebook (they’re amazingly humorous & insightful!). So there is value in that information. You can tune it out or absorb it.

  3. Jon,

    Yeah, this does seem right on, although part of the equation for me is who is in these electronic networks. Right now, there isn’t any relationship building going on between me and my clients in this way, because none of them are part of this (for the most part, every once in a while there is someone who uses IM.)

    So I think this has been great for collegial relationships among nptechies, but not so much with clients or potential clients (at least, not mine.) And I wonder how useful it will be for my clients in terms of their constituencies.

  4. Hi Jon –
    Thanks for the post. I agree – it also feels right to me. I just finished a personal project – using Twitter for 21 days. I thought I would come to the end despise it for being silly and wasteful. Turns out that I get a ton of great links, articles and resources from folks. Not only that, I know which links I want to follow based partly on the other kinds of things people are Tweeting. I know that certain people have certain viewpoints, and that colors what they will recommend, for example.

    These tools provide a richer CONTEXT for information sharing that is simply fantastic. Oh, and forget about how awesome it is just to stumble around and find awesome people through your friends.

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