A Social Networking Connection that Failed

Social Networking FailureMy social networking connection with Robin Hale, CEO of Partnership Marketing and operator of several websites such as Writers Elite and Custom Blog For Free, is a recent social networking connection that has failed.

Social networking connections fail – they are no different than any other form of connection made in real life.  However when connections fail after raised expectations by one party or the other, it affects not just the “relationship” but the underlying principle that the social networking connections was based – trust.

The failure of my connection with Robin Hale of Partnership Marketing was based on a lack of trust that developed.  This individual failed to deliver on promises and follow through on commitments.  Yet it is this failed social networking connection that’s allowed me to gain more understanding in the whole concept of user engagement, relationship building and trust that is the backbone of successful relationships online.

For those who don’t already know this, social networking is not about self-promotion, personal gain and making money.  It’s about building sustained relationships rooted in trust that will provide benefits throughout the course of the relationship.  It is about building a solid and credible reputation in the online world that can be leveraged when opportunity presents itself.

While I have had other social networking connections fail, the failure of this one with Robin was very timely.  I was preparing for a presentation on social networking, online reputation management and relationship building.  It provided an opportunity for me to use a real world case study based on my own experiences to illustrate several points.

For some background, Robin Hale from Partnership Marketing and I met through Twitter.  Shortly after some interaction, she pitched a business partnership idea to me which was a fabulous opportunity.  It never did get off the ground because her schedule was “busy”.  I answered Robin’s calls for help on several things and found solutions for the issues she was struggling with.  She in turn offered to write several articles for one of my sites and I accepted – thinking it was a good faith gesture on her part.  After several months of waiting, she never delivered on those promises.

Robin Hale’s response to our failed social networking connection – her life is extremely busy, she felt pressured into agreeing to do something and she has to deal with the general pressures of family life.

Everyone in this business leads busy lives.  We all feel the pressures of family yet when we make a commitment, the majority of us deliver on that commitment.  We know that in this online business world reputation is everything and contributes to the fundamental principle of success – trust.  Failure to deliver means we damage our reputation and credibility and that lessens the trust those within our social circles have in our ability.  The fact that Robin Hale failed to follow through on a business opportunity she pitched to me and failed to deliver on another commitment destroyed the trust our social networking connection and ultimately led to its failure.

What’s even more alarming, I had recommended Robin Hale and Partnership Marketing to several clients and online acquaintances, staked my own reputation that she could deliver as promised.  Chris Brogan puts this into perfect light in his post on Friending and Reputation.  He says:

“If you vouch for someone and that person turns out to be not as respectable or civil as you originally thought, and this is all experienced by others in your various circles, your reputation (potentially) takes a hit for the other person’s effort.”

Fortunately, these clients and acquaintances looked elsewhere and my own online reputation or credibility was not damaged by my recommendation.

I don’t discount Robin Hale’s sincerity in our initial interactions, but when I began evaluating our entire social networking connection it became evident to me that the relationship was one-sided.  Robin had great intentions but those were centred entirely around her own interests.  Nowhere in this social networking relationship was I engaged.  I did things for her with the thoughts that these good deeds would allow me to leverage our relationship at some point in the future.  Her excuses were just that, excuses.  The trust was gone and therefore the social networking connection just fell apart.

There are many people like Robin Hale of Partnership Marketing.  Initial enthusiasm and promises filled with apparent sincerity when combined with massive numbers of followers creates an illusion of success, authority and knowledge in their niche.  Yet they lack substance and the experience to engage, maintain and effectively leverage the power of their social community.  What’s more unfortunate is that many followers/friends see this as social networking success and mimic the bad habits of their supposed mentors.

This approach from individuals like Robin Hale pollutes the social networking sites and intoxicates new entrants.  What could otherwise become a very beneficial relationships paying dividends throughout its life and the relationship fails.  Individuals such as this equate large numbers of followers or friends with social networking success, and see self-promotion through these channels as means to gaining even more success and making more money.  It’s a misconception that many entering this world have and spend their entire energy on wrongly promoting this approach.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not an expert in social networking or in online relationship building.  I’m just as new to this world as many others out there but I have grasped an understanding of how online relationships evolve and what contributes to its success.  I have discovered that in social networking effective and successful relationships are rooted in trust and reputation.  Being successful in business has taught me these same lessons.

Robin Hale will probably think that this post is about being “bitter” about the failure.  This is where she will once again miss the point.  In failing to see that in the online world, your reputation is the biggest asset owned, such a shortsighted view of the lesson learned here will not effect behavioral change .  The fact that I’ve chosen to write about our experience and illustrate a point allows me to illustrate how to build more successful relationships and avoid mistakes.

For those that have made similar mistakes, it is not too late to repent.  Follow some simple rules and these will bring successes in your social networking circles.  Remember be engaging to your readers.  It goes beyond self-promotion.  If you commit to do something for someone in your social networking circle, you have to make an effort to deliver.  Failing to do so will impact your reputation and credibility that will ultimately impact the extent to which people trust you in the online world.  Restoring that trust will be difficult.

Never value your time more than others in your social network.  Everyone has busy lives and if you ask a favour, be prepared for that favour to be called in at some point during the relationship.  Never offer to do something if you are unable or unwilling to complete the task.  These two items speak volumes about the true nature of the relationship you are trying to build and will destroy credibility and trust more quickly than you can imagine.

As for the failed social networking connection with Robin, it was not my first and will probably not be my last.  I wish her the best of luck in her online ventures.  I don’t doubt that she’s a very hard worker and does great things for those that she makes time for.  I hope that she grasps a true understanding of social networking, trust relationships and online reputation before the damage is irreparable.

Then again, maybe I have this whole thing wrong!  If I do, I’m sure someone will be quick to point it out.

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About Barry Wheeler

Barry Wheeler is a blogger, novice SEO, geek and passionate Newfoundlander. Operating several successful websites and online communities, Barry has started exploring the social internet and its impact on all facets of society including personal life and business relationships. Find Barry on Twitter @barrywheeler and FaceBook or on his website Barry Wheeler - Blogging for Success.
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