Face to face is essential for online people

American Congressman, Anthony Weiner is probably regretting he ever sent a former porn star a photo of his private parts via his mobile phone; he has had to resign from his position of power. But he is not the first person to be involved in a “sexting” scandal – sending explicit pictures or messages using modern technology. According to one study, 20% of us have done it at some stage; now I know I haven’t, my wife hasn’t, my son hasn’t and my mother hasn’t so that only leaves you. Oh really…!  Maybe, though, the statistics are skewed – after all a certain Tiger Woods allegedly sent over 100 sexually explicit messages to just one woman – strangely another former porn star.

We need to meet face to faceImportantly, though, it’s worthwhile noticing that most of the well-known cases of “sexting” involve the individuals actually meeting “in the flesh”. There are few cases of “sexting” that don’t appear to involve “real world” encounters. Indeed, a clever little study from the University of Nebraska shows that in spite of the desire for people to be “unfaithful” online, the real aim of their flirtatious frolicking is to enable them to meet up physically – perhaps even literally face-to-face.

In spite of all the wonders of the web, the ability to see each other naked via webcams and the possibility of sending explicit 140 character direct and private messages via Twitter, the real reason people use all this technology is to make it more likely they will meet in the “real world”. As the researchers say: “While social networking sites are increasingly being used for social contact, people continue to be more interested in real-life partners, rather than online partners. It seems that, at some point in a relationship, we need the physical, face-to-face contact.”

And therein lies a lesson for online businesses. There is only so much you can do online; at some stage you have to meet people in the real world. Even the best “Internet marketers” know this. Think for a moment about all those interminably long web pages which promise you’ll make millions by tea-time. You spend your $47 only to find that the “secret” is to have a long sales letter promising to make people millions by tea-time, which you dutifully produce – and don’t make millions..! But why not? You followed the instructions to the letter.

Yes, but what you didn’t do was get the benefit of mailing tens of thousands of people, perhaps. But how do you get to those people? Well you could borrow your mate’s list – if you had a friend with a relevant list. This is why the top Internet marketers do make millions by tea-time. They all know each other in the “real world”. They go to each other’s houses and chat about making millions. They go to the same Internet marketing events, where they have coffee and chat about making millions. And when they have another sales page to promote they all help each other out, cross-promoting each other’s work – because they all know each other face-to-face.

Then, when you come to try and follow their success, you don’t do so well because you don’t have a “real world” relationship with the people who can help you. Even for Internet marketers who make millions online, the crux of their success is usually a real world, face-to-face relationship.

So, no matter how much Tweeting you do, no matter how well Facebook works for you and no matter how good LinkedIn can be for your business, neglecting face-to-face could be serious. As the Nebraskan researchers point out, ultimately we are social animals – and as a result technology can only do so much. That is until we can exchange touch online, which will bring a whole new meaning to an “electronic handshake” and will doubtless give those ardent sexters something else to do with each other. Oh gosh, the mind boggles – though I suspect it will be other parts of anatomy that will be doing the boggling. Goodness, the Daily Mail will have a field day…!

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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
RT @UniOfBuckingham: If you missed us @MKJobshow at the weekend you can find out all about how our two year degrees and student life works… - 4 hours ago
Graham Jones
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