Relationship in the Internet World

shashibI have a friend. Up until about a month ago, I only knew him as shashib. I didn’t know much about shashib, except what I observed about him on Twitter. As I observed shashib and interacted with him, I realized he was from the DC metropolitan area and that he was in social media. We had something in common right from the start and so more and more, I engaged shashib as not only a colleague but as a friend. We laughed, joked all in 140 characters or less.

Sometime last month, I met shashib for the first time in person. It was at Social Media Club in Falls Church, Virginia where Jim Long, the cameraman from NBC and the White House Press pool turned social-media mogul, was speaking to the SMC.

After the meeting was over, I introduced myself to shashib and discovered what he does. He works at Network Solutions, the 20th century era domain registrar that still charges $35 for a domain for a year. I don’t particularly like NetSol, but the fact that he worked there didn’t affect my opinion of Shashi (his real name is Shashi Bellamkonda) because he was my friend.

I don’t mean “friend” in the sense of what most of social media has turned into where “friend” is a status symbol of yet another person who you have chosen to follow or who has decided to follow you. I mean, friend, in the 20th century or earlier sense of the world – two humans having common interests and sharing a common bond.

I’ve given Shashi plenty of grief about Network Solutions. How the perception to me is that it is an overpriced solution that doesn’t offer much more than what you can get much cheaper elsewhere. I even gave him grief over last weeks kerfuffle about NetSol’s domain “holding” practice. I did, however, complement NetSol on their domain administration interface, something I have not used in years and is much improved and much more fluid than any other competitor’s that I have experience with.

But this is not about Network Solutions. This is about relationships.

Since last month, I have seen Shashi in person a handful of other times and he is as genuine today as he was before I knew what he did. It’s about relationship, and Shashi is my friend.

Marketing and communications in the internet world today has somewhere gotten lost. Somehow, it has become more about deceptive practices than it has about relationship. It’s become about trying to get you to believe something, regardless of whether it is true. Where is the integrity?

In real life, I wouldn’t expect someone who is a friend to try to deceive me. I would not expect lying or backstabbing. Not from a friend. The solution then for communications professionals to step back and determine what the best ROI for marketing. Is it a deceptive sales pitch, or is it “friendship evangelism”?

If Shashi started trying to sell me on NetSol out of the gate, chances are that today, we would not be friends. Instead, he established a friendship with me and has me seriously considering a little known service of NetSol. How’s that for evangelism?

* Photo Credit to Schmoozing

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

12 thoughts on “Relationship in the Internet World”

  1. I too am friends with Shash, and can’t agree more with this post. I wrote a blog post a week or so ago about Shashi and the NetSol situation, and my conclusion is that the company is much better off with him there, putting a real, authentic, trustworthy face on the company…but who can’t be put in a position of defending the undefensible. Shashi’s taking a lead role in helping ensure the company does the right things…sort of an ombudsman for the community in addition to representing NetSol. It’s an interesting duality, but he’s showing how it can be done.

  2. Great post. Human beings! Actual connection! Recognition, acceptance and celebration of the whole person instead of one aspect! Revolutionary!

    As “friendship” becomes a technological/marketing term, it’s critical to retain friendship as a human one.

  3. I love this! What a great post. I love the juxtaposition of the 20th century definition of friendship compared to the new social media definition, because there is definitely a difference. Even more interesting, is that this just shows that the new media definition can lead to the old world relationship – and that’s something that I think many of us lose when engaging in so-called social networking spheres. What I have found most surprising about Twitter, as opposed to other “networks” is that despite being limited to 140 characters and having an open time-line, it is much easier to form actual bonds than with something like Facebook (though to be fair, I started using Facebook almost 3 years ago to keep up with old friends – not to necessarily meet new people – and that’s totally different than the model now).

    Although I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Shashi, I truly enjoy having conversations with him and getting to know bits and pieces of his life. The same goes for many of my Twitterati. Anyhoo – great post!

  4. Shashi’s a kind, savvy person. Thx for posting this! You made an apt point on how authentic relating 2.0 style (3.0?!) influences marketing. Great photo too.

  5. I like your style :)

    Seriously, a great way for others who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with Shashi (who btw always helps me out if I need it) to get to know him, and to touch on the relationship aspect of social media.

  6. Heh Aaron,
    great job man. I agree with your take. I think people who gain the most value out of tools like Twitter are the ones that build these relationships. I have met such great people via Twitter already. Poeple like yourself, Nahum, Shashi, Andrew Wright, Zvi Band, Nick O’Neill, Shana Glickfield, Leslie Bradshaw, Susan Reynolds, George Brett, Jeff Hibbard, Jonny Goldstein …. and the list goes on. I would have never met these people otherwise, but I have and we are coming together as a great community in the DC area. It has been so enjoyable.

    Thanks for the great post and I am glad to have met you recently.

  7. Group hug! Shashi is my friend too! Albeit we’ve never met in person, we’ve gotten to know each other on twitter & via email. He’s totally sincere & committed to doing the best for his company. This IS what the future is about. We are ‘accidental marketers’ and it’s an interesting direction.

  8. Great to find your blog through this Twitter Shashi connection. I very much enjoyed this post. I have only been on Twitter since Christmas. I joined Twitter thanks to Leah Jones. I met Shashi early on and took advantage of a “call my cell-phone while I’m commuting” @shashib Twitter. It was delightful. I am back in the USA after working in Japan for many years. We have a great international community in Tokyo but its not on-line much. I’ve been easing into various on-line communities for the last two years. I do feel that Twitter (at least the group I have fallen in with) offers the opportunity for real friendships.
    @lindasherman

  9. Aaron,

    Thanks for the article about your friendship with Shashi and for expressing your feelings about him online. I first “met” Shashi” on Facebook and it was he who recommended that I sign up to Twitter. We developed a friendship through subsequent phone and face-to-face meetings. I fully understand why he has so many admirers- this is evident from the comments following your post.

    @nahumg

  10. Bravo! I couldn’t agree more. Too many people in sales try to push their product on you right from the start. Building a relationship with your prospective customers will get you much farther to a sale than a sales pitch. And people prefer to buy from their friends.

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