Corn rows

My last post focused on the reality that there are no shortcuts to lasting success. Let’s look this time at the implications of the law of the farm in building lasting relationships with customers. (If you haven’t read the previous post, you’ll get more out of this one if you read it first and then come back here.)

The contrast between short-term and long-term relationships drawn by Stephen Covey is very interesting when brought forward into today’s business culture. With the advent of social media, never before have young companies had the opportunity to build awareness and engagement with a worldwide audience so quickly, and so cheaply. A product or brand can become recognized all around the globe in a very short time.

In fact, social media today is replete with examples of people using the Personality Ethic to build a following. You can find young women with supermodel looks building followings of many 100,000s of people on Instagram for their daily stream of selfies. Can these women then sell this audience to advertisers? Absolutely, but there are limits to the degree of influence the figure behind such a following can wield. This is the flip side of the fact that a following for a person or product can be built cheaply on social media. This ease of connecting is a two-way street, as it costs the follower nothing to follow, so their investment in the relationship is exceedingly low in many cases. This naturally limits the degree of influence such a “public” figure can wield with their audience given a shallow sort of engagement.

So social media followings are worthless, right? No, I’m not saying that at all. They can be an very valuable asset for a marketer. However, if you are trying to build a business in which you have sustained relationships with customers, you cannot simply leverage the tactics of the selfie queens. Rather, you must recognize that getting that new social media follower equates to the planting stage of your relationship with that customer, and you are going to have to then proceed to cultivate the relationship by continually providing genuine value. The law of the harvest applies, even in our instant gratification, social media world.

You can find useful ideas for deeper engagement by studying the practices of successful content marketers. The guiding principle in most content marketing is that you continually provide valuable, useful content for free, and only after establishing a rapport with a potential customer would you pitch a product to them. This is an application of the law of the farm, in which content is used to fertilize the budding relationship as they are cultivating a loyal customer.

You simply cannot build a relationship characterized by loyalty with a customer by spitting out pithy quotes on Twitter or images of an idealized, faux reality on Instagram. Dig deeper, and cultivate relationships with your audience.