The Connection Reflection

You can make the argument – and I will here – that connection might be the single most important aspect of human life. But maybe we should look at the quality of those connections.

In the human body, blood provides the connection that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Without that, you die. (Hence that whole “most important aspect” thing.)

When we’re kids, we learn the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone, and so on. Again, connection matters. And with everything from connective tissue to connecting flights, connection is the thing that gets us through the day. Literally.

For this conversation, though, I’d rather stick to interpersonal connections. Connecting with other people has always been viewed as important – it’s why we got that steady diet of weepy TV commercials through the 1970s where a son would call a tearful Mom to wish her a Happy Mothers’ Day and extol the virtues of the latest long distance plan from the phone company, who just wanted to keep us all connected.

When Facebook came along, people flocked to the platform because it would allow us to reconnect with people we’d lost touch with. For plenty of people, it didn’t take long to recognize the reasons why we let those connections go in the first place. But even bi-coastal or trans-global marriages came about because of what started as virtual connections.

Then what I like to think of as the darker side of those connections started to take root. Not dark in a sinister sense, although there’s plenty of that out in the world as well, but do you remember Klout Scores? Klout was a service – more of a disservice, really – that started in 2008 and would assign you a score from 1 to 100 based on the quality of your connections. At least, that was the idea. But in reality, “quality” wasn’t really part of the equation. Mostly, you were given a high Klout score if you were connected to a lot of other people. (The only Klout score of 100, by the way, was given to Justin Bieber.) It’s because of Klout scores that we now have social media influencers – and that wonderful subset of social media influencers who have contributed nothing to the world and achieved nothing in their lives except a high follower count.

I saw, and briefly followed, one guy on Twitter who billed himself as a social media expert specializing in building connections. He had a follower count in the six figures and I thought to myself, well, that many people can’t all be wrong, so I followed.

Within 24 hours, I had received 177 tweets from this one person. Every one of them was a link to either an article or a video on his website. Each of those was basically an instructional piece on how to automate a lot of your social media, and how to build a huge audience without having to invest much time.

In that same 24-hour period, this expert on connection-building didn’t have a single interaction with any of his six-figure follower count. Didn’t like anything. Didn’t retweet anything. Didn’t respond to anyone. Didn’t have any conversations. So this guru apparently still lives in the Klout score era, where other people are simply seen as the means to an end.

Rather than simply stand and throw stones, though, let’s examine our own use of connections and see if they pass the sniff test.

Let’s start with your website.

I have a friend who refers to “the Amazon school of web design”. He looks at it like this: No matter where you are on Amazon’s website, you’re never far from the button that lets you buy stuff. Whether it’s “Buy Now With One Click”, “Add To Cart” or whatever else, Amazon knows that the only way they make money is if you click that button. So the button is incredibly prominent. The most important things to your business model should be the things on your website that are the easiest to find.

Which brings us to the button on Amazon’s website that lets you connect with a live human for Customer Service. There isn’t one. Why? Because that’s not what Amazon is for. And that’s why, as an example, there will always be a place for Mom & Pop bookshops.

So how hard is it for your customers, past present or future, to connect with you? And please don’t point to the chatbot you set up in the bottom right corner with that helpful screening process to see if there’s somewhere in the FAQ you can link me to so you don’t have to waste your valuable time talking to me. How do I reach a person?

Or was the only time you were genuinely interested in interacting with me during the period leading up to you getting my credit card number?

Hey grocery store – do you really want me to have a nice day, like you make the checkout person tell me? How about NOT making me go fish around for a quarter to shove into the shopping cart as part of your anti-theft program? Because all your anti-theft program does is offend and inconvenience your customers, unless you honestly believe that the people who were stealing your shopping carts simply forgot their Frequent Shopper Points card.

If I’m a fan of your podcast – is there an easy way to get in touch with you or your team, or ask a question?

If I reach out to your company on social media, will someone respond? And maybe respond without cutting and pasting text from the “Officially Approved Interaction Scripts” document?

While we’re on the subject of the officially approved scripts, I know I’m not the only person in the world this has happened to: I decided to switch cell phone providers. For the sake of the story, let’s change the name to protect the guilty, and pretend I was using ACME Wireless – same company Wile E. Coyote was using. So I called, went through the process, and at the end of the call, the person said, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” No. The reason I called is because I’m severing the relationship. And then they said, “Thanks for choosing ACME!” That’s how they ended the call where I cancelled their service. By thanking me for choosing them. Either the script told them to say that, or they switched to autopilot and ended every call that way. Whichever answer is true, it’s just more evidence that you don’t care.

The guy who did his social media on autopilot did have one thing tangentially correct: There’s a vast array of tools available to make it easier than ever to interact with your customers and fans. And that means it’s a bigger sign than ever before that you just don’t care, if you don’t find a way to maintain a connection with me once you’ve gotten what you wanted.

Faking connection might work if what you’re after is a one-night stand. But it’s no way to build a fan base. And what I can almost guarantee you is that someone out there is doing it better.

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