How not to connect


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One evening many years ago I was in a line at the train station in Maebashi, Japan. A middle-aged man came up and started practicing his limited English with a rapid-fire series of unrelated questions.

Speaking fluent Japanese showed him I was ready to talk. But that wasn’t what he was after. So he finished his half dozen questions and disappeared down the boulevard; mission accomplished.

For years I laughed at the memory. How could he confuse his irrelevant, unsolicited phrases with meaningful engagement?

I’ve stopped laughing. Millions of social media users do the same thing and think they’ve accomplished something. The internet has come to resemble an enormous room full of strangers busily talking over each other, and believing they’re maintaining real relationships or selling teeth whitener.

The latter group even thinks they’re trembling on the brink of money for nothing. No really, nothing.

Yet this is how engagement doesn’t happen–it’s “empty calories.”

As our traditional safety nets and sources of recognition evaporate, we all need more personal validation and growth. And belonging to a supportive new culture or “tribe” is what most Americans are seeking. Always have, always will.

The internet is history’s greatest tool. And it can also help businesses tap into the greatest asset we could dream of: our internal and external customers. We just need to use it better.

Every tool you need to make authentic engagement your business’s hallmark is available and waiting. But to paraphrase the Zen saying, you must stop confusing the tools that point toward real engagement with engagement itself.

Stop being unwelcome and irrelevant like that guy in Maebashi. Get in touch.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Carey Giudici
Betterwords for Business
Carey has a unique, high-energy approach to help small business owners, entrepreneurs and in-transition professionals make their Brand and content achieve superior results in the social media. He calls it "Ka-Ching Coaching" because the bottom line is always . . . your bottom line. He has developed marketing and training material for a Fortune 5 international corporation, a large public utility, the Embassy of Japan, the University of Washington, and many small businesses and entrepreneurs.


  1. Hi Carey: thanks for this post. We’ve all experienced frustration over the perfunctory connections that social media enables. Outsiders cannot distinguish that one set of individuals are connected because they work together in a close, collaborative group, and another set are connected because an individual sent out hundreds of blind “invitations to connect,” which the others accepted. “Why not? Bigger networks are more valuable–aren’t they?” Maybe not.

    A connection is a connection is a connection. There’s no way to distinguish value. That’s a huge limitation of social media that must change if networks want to avoid becoming little more than huge, amorphous globs of names (if it hasn’t already happened).

    A related blog I wrote on this topic: Cheap Date: Do Free Social Connections Create Hidden Costs?

  2. Thank you for the comment, Andrew, and link to your valuable piece.

    I find it ironic that people collect hordes of “friends” etc. via super-widgets like Facebook in an attempt to become leaders without really trying. Yet when we focus on numbers rather than value, we effectively make real leadership (built as it is on value) almost impossible to achieve. The perception of value increasingly trumps real value on a massive scale.

    To the extent that we can recognize the valid social significance of social media–its potential to disseminate actual value so virally that individuals become one-man (or woman) universities, as one example–we become able to foster the kind of organic leadership that has been so hard to come by during the Industrial Revolution.

  3. For years people have been saying we don’t write anymore. Very few people write letters in the way they did in the 18th and 19th century, that’s for certain. Facebook or blogs such as this are the closest to that kind of intimacy I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Of course it is a new technology and there is a learning curve. Some of the sillier applications like Farmville are a way for non-tech people to get their feet wet and learn their way around. Then you can start communicating with the written word something not done for over a generation between the telephone and TV.


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