Gimme, Gimme, Gimme: A Lesson About the Importance of Relationships in Business

My best friend’s little brother recently started messaging me on Facebook, somewhat out of the blue, asking various questions about his new business.

I’m generally happy to help, so I obliged — until he crossed the red line.

“Would it be plausible to write a post about my Kickstarter campaign when it goes live?” he asked, followed by: “What blog(s) could you get me on?”

And then: “Do you know other bloggers that could get me on other sites?”

Finally, a little annoyed with the conversation, I told him: “Start making relationships, bro. Research relationship marketing, influencer marketing.”

What happened next is the lesson we all can learn from him.

“Why do you think I’m talking to you?” he said. “Let me tap into your network!”

Perhaps he was being a bit sarcastic — although as they say, there’s some truth to every joke — but the issue here is an issue all too common, an issue that businesses across the spectrum are failing to realize, and an issue that could become an opportunity if only for a different approach.

I don’t blame my friend’s brother for reaching out to someone he knows, seeking help. The issue I have is that he reached out to someone who he barely has a relationship with, asking for a relatively significant favor, with no mention of what’s in it for me or why I should help him.

A lot of people reading this post will likely shrug this off as rather obvious, yet that doesn’t stop hordes of businesses from doing this exact thing time and again: blatantly trying to “hack” online relationships (AKA social media) by directly or indirectly prying people (e.g. customers, bloggers or what’s known today as “influencers”) for self-promotion.

My friend’s brother might be a software engineer, but there’s no place for hacking when it comes to relationships. It’s like the “friend” who only contacts you when he needs or wants something. No one likes that guy.

Instead of wondering what people can do for you, ask yourself what you can do for them. Start by establishing real relationships based on trust, value and experience. And don’t stop. Nurture your relationships; put as much — if not more — into them as you expect out of them.

It’s like Gary Vaynerchuk says: Give people 51% of the relationship, because the other 49% you’ll get in return is still worth a whole lot.

Of course, building relationships takes time and energy — there’s no denying that. But if you aren’t willing to invest the time and energy up front, why should anyone invest theirs in you?

In today’s world where everyone wants to know “What have you done for me lately?” relationships are the most effective way to get what you want, when you want it. Without them, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and sign up to receive his weekly column.