I was twitter-hopping yesterday and I came across this article by Lisa Barone, co-founder of Outspoken Media. In it, she gives four reasons why any blog, your blog in particular, is failing. Fortunately for me, mine hasn't really gotten off the ground yet, meaning I'm a failure only because I haven't posted much of anything. However, I thought she had some valid points to make about engaging your audience on a personal level.

For anyone who took even one business class in college, this should be common sense. And yet, with the rise of social media, we are witnessing the decline of meaningful individual interaction. That seems counterintuitive, I know, and it's a generalization, certainly. But it's much easier to avoid lasting relationships if you can sign out when the going gets tough. That's what I was thinking about while I was reading Aaron Strout's blog post yesterday, in which he presents a clever analogy between marketing and dating. He argues that business should be entirely about personal, lasting relationships with your consumers (duh). That should be easy, right? I mean, now it's possible to have real-time relationships with hundreds of people scattered all over the globe. But possible does not mean preferable.

Social media has been a boon for a lot of people. Without physical cues, the power of persuasion is based more and more on linguistic prowess--judging from Twitter, something that is sorely lacking. However, rather than embracing the opportunity to cultivate their soft power, many people have instead used social media as an excuse to blast as many people as they can find with their message, ignoring any nasty results.

Dwight Eisenhower said that leadership is the ability "to get people to work together, not only because you tell them to do so and enforce your orders but because they instinctively want to do it for you...You don't lead by hitting people over the head; that's assault, not leadership." (As quoted in The Power to Lead, by Joseph Nye Jr., which is a decent little book for anyone interested in a very basic analytical introduction to leadership studies).

All of these things come down to viewing your customers as people. That's hard to do when you will never meet most of them, and you don't really have time to get to know his favorite color or the name of her ferret. But if you'd like to win friends and influence people, it has to be done. To borrow the dating analogy, consumers are not just playing hard-to-get. They're completely out of your league (at least, you should treat them like they are). Trust me, arrogant charm is not unique, but sadly, time and effort seem to be heading that direction. So make that your shtick. Not a color scheme or killer social networking skills, but your concern for the well-being of your consumers. If you can do all that without getting in their way, you will be a champion "woo-er." But don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Because if you forget for a moment that consumers are the most important half of your relationship, the romance will be gone. And so will you.

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