By Heather Lopez

When I was in college, I was not on Facebook yet. It really wasn’t existent at the moment, at least not on my campus. I did a lot of IM’ing via AOL and MySpace messages. In some ways, I kind of miss those days because it was okay to have a profile that really spoke to me as a person. Plus, it was cool to swap your pics and profiles whenever you wanted to.  Oh yes, and the ability to play music from your profile was awesome. However, when the shift to Facebook happened, the noise and individuality got cut out a bit. Apparently, dull colors and rigid formatting appeal to the masses. And yet, because of the attraction of the masses, we are able to connect with so many more real people than before. But, are they real friends?

One thing I remember was that on MySpace, people would try to get the most friends they possibly could and the top positions on someone’s friends list were very valuable. On Facebook, those things don’t matter as much, at least not for individuals. Facebook caps you at 5,000 total friends and likes from your personal profile, because the personal profile is not really supposed to be for business. Businesses care about likes, interactions, comments and top favorite positioning on the side of the page wall. However, a majority of people use social media to develop social relationships, not for business. So as a business owner, there are some things we need to consider when planning our social media outreach.

This takes me to the questions: Are these social relationships, real relationships? And, where does business come into play?

According to a study released last year by Pew Internet, people using Facebook have more trusting and close relationships, more social support, and are more likely to revive relationships from the past. Let me analyze these three areas a bit more.

More Trusting and Close Relationships: This means that Facebook users exhibit more trust in people than others and have more people that they can trust in. While you used to be able to create a persona for yourself online, it is much harder on Facebook.  If you are fake, you will be called out. If you spam, you will be removed. Facebook, especially with the timeline, makes you more transparent. It also allows for in person connections via events.  In this sense, your relationships on Facebook are real.  Business Lesson: If people begin to know, like and trust you via Facebook, they will more likely purchase something from your business when you present it. You just have to make sure the focus is not always getting their money from their wallets. You want to develop reciprocal and real relationships with your followers and if you can then apply that to your business page, you can generate even more income. When people like your page and interact with it, they will more likely purchase from you.

More Social Support: When you are going through something, you can now turn to Facebook to vent or gain support from others for your cause, purpose, etc. You have access to a lot more friends than you would’ve just trying to go through your phone book. Plus, because of the Facebook algorithm, your status is seen by those who interact with and support you the most. Those who support you consistently may eventually be considered real friends even if you have never met them in person or IRL (In Real Life).  Business Lesson: Facebook can allow you to gain more support for something you are wishing to share. It can also allow you to express a viewpoint tor opinion that is important to you, and weed out those who are constantly in disagreement. If you make people feel part of your growth, and show them how they benefit from it, they will take on helping you without a ton of direction.

More Likely to Revive Dormant Relationships: 

You know you have done it- searched for people you went to high school with. Facebook has changed the shock factor of high school reunions. People are able to connect with so many people from their past and across so many borders. If the dormant relationship was pleasant, then the individuals will have fond memories they would wish to rekindle. If it was a strong relationship, like a best friend or a first love, the person will be more likely to trust the person even if they haven’t seen them in years. You can revive relationships with people you once knew and these would be real friends that you knew IRL before Facebook. Business Lesson: You can seek out people you have developed relationships with in the past and share with them what you are doing now, without making a sale. They may begin sharing your things to support and regain that connection with you that they once had. You don’t have to look at them as a prospect, but you can welcome their support in helping you grow. This especially applies when you are reciprocal in the support.

Overall, Facebook Friends can now be considered real friends whom you can trust in, be closer to, gain support from, and reconnect with. When you develop your relationships first, you can then focus on your profit second, as this will more naturally flow when you have a group of supporters.

Heather Lopez, aka The Social Commerce Mom, specializes in relationship marketing both online and off.  She is the CEO of Heather Lopez Enterprises LLC, where she is responsible for several events, websites, trainings, and services targeting moms and those seeking to market to moms. Heather empowers moms to create their own financial freedom through business or blogging so that they may have more time for what they treasure most. She is also a 30-something mom to two rambunctious toddlers and wife to one entrepreneurial-minded husband.  You can connect with Heather here.