sly : marketing

Online Intimacy – Entering The Comfort Zone

online hugs

I am closing my eyes right now. I’m picturing a man, a smiling man, who just entered a room full of strangers. I am watching each one of them; but especially the two women on the left, holding a glass in their left hands, a purse in their right, talking. The man walks up to them. Still smiling. They stop talking, and starts looking at him. He says hi. And he looks at the brunette on the left. He steps closer, and he approaches her carefully. And then, he leans forward and wraps his arms around her, and gives her a hug.

What do you think her reaction was?

This was a stranger, and he gave her a hug the first time they met. In life, there are so many different types of people, some people love hugs, some people don’t. You just can’t tell what their comfort zone is by just looking at a person for a few minutes.

Turning a stranger into a friend

If you want to make a great first impression, online and offline, you need to listen, and you need to watch, before you approach. Entering the comfort zone too early, will only make you sad. The smiling man might get lucky, and make a great first impression, but that’s it, we shouldn’t have to be lucky to make a great first impression.

I get a lot of emails, and many people are contacting me via social media. And, I get a lot of requests for guest posts (and that’s why I have written a guideline). The people that are successful at making a great first impression on me, are not the people that are giving me a hug. Don’t get me wrong. I love hugs, but I don’t usually hug strangers.

I want the small talk. I want to get to know a person, and I really don’t want to be sold to the first time I talk to a person. If the smiling man had done his homework, he would have known exactly what the opening line should have been, and what he should have done to make her smile.

It’s easier than ever to listen and watch before you approach a person. You don’t even have to be in the same room.

The easiest ways to get started without entering the comfort zone is to:

I’m not sure, but adding a stranger as a friend on Facebook might be considered an online hug to me. But like I said, I’m not sure, and it might depend on how many friends we have in common.

When you’re involved in marketing, it’s very important to understand that people have a comfort zone both online as well as offline.

Your turn

What’s your online comfort zone? Is it ok if a stranger adds you as a friend on Facebook? Do you accept guest posts from complete strangers? How do you approach strangers online?

I’d love a discussion,

58 responses to “Online Intimacy – Entering The Comfort Zone”

  1. Like you, I’m not a hugger. I am very British in that sense … I struggled with the French way of giving air kisses, even to people you’ve just met for the first time … when it comes to online I am a bit more affectionate as I don’t have to physically touch anyone!!!

    I think there is a fine line between being intimate with people online and being overly transparent. I have a few people I email personally and keep that circle quite small – there are only so many relationships you can truly nurture.

    I’m not very good at reciprocating attention – I think it goes against my brand – if something’s great I share and I comment, if it’s not something that resonates with me I tend to skip it. I have to always keep in mind that what I share, and who I talk to is a reflection of who I am especially online – which is why I have 2 twitter handles.

    That’s not to say that if you show me the love and I won’t love you back!

    • Hi Ameena,

      I don’t know why, but I thought you loved giving air kisses the first time you meet people 🙂

      I know that would be uncomfortable to me. But, on the other hand, I might get used to it if I lived in France.

      I am a lot more comfortable with things online as well, and like you I try my best to understand that who I talk to (and what I say) is a reflection of who I am online. I have a handful of people I talk to more or less on a daily basis, and then there are some I talk to on a weekly basis and so on. I don’t have a strategy, I just do what comes natural to me 🙂

    • Ralph says:

      Guess this resonated with you then, huh? 😉

  2. Ralph says:

    Hey Jens,
    Good topic. I am a pretty forward kind of guy. I don’t mind approaching people on the street and talking to them. hey, they are people like me. There are times when they are put off but that’s ok. I understand.

    In business i am a listener. i like to understand people around me, their thoughts and what drives them before I offer any comment or opinion at all. Again, it depends on the situation.

    On-line: If you have something to say, say it but my philospohy is that if it’s not constructive then shut the hell up and move on. I agree that I wouldn’t accept guest posts from just anyone. It’s yout site, your livelihood and your credibility that you have built so you have every right to be discerning.

    Facebook is for goofing off (for me). Sure, I will friend someone i don’t know after i check out their page to make sure they are not douchy. No room for douchbags in my world.

    Great post! Can’t wait to see what everyone else has to say.

    • What you just said reminds me of a few of my friends. They stop talking to close to everyone they meet on the street. And, they can talk for a very long time with them, and to me, it’s like they’ve become friends with strangers just by talking to them one time. I just love to watch when that happens. And, people like that get a lot more opportunities than people like me 🙂

  3. Carol Lynn says:

    Jens, this is a really interesting analogy and you’re absolutely right. I think that people see “friendships” online as impersonal so they are a lot more aggressive, but it’s just as disconcerting as it is in real life.

    I had to think about your questions for a moment, and I guess the answer is that Facebook is a bit more personal in my opinion, at least for me, and I don’t accept friend requests from total strangers. I do if they’re people I know through other groups, even if I haven’t known them long.

    As for guest posts, people can send requests all day long but I only take the ones I like and ignore the rest! I don’t mind requests from strangers in that respect as long as they are providing me with something good.

    I do think there is a “getting to know you” period that has to come before business and sharing. Thanks for this insight, Jens, I enjoyed this post!

    • I’ve talked to a lot of people about Facebook (and online relationships), and it seems that we’re all different, as we are in the offline world. Some of the people I have talked to only allow “real” friends to connect with them on Facebook, while others allow everybody (and use filters to know who they are talking to).

      I still don’t have an answer to the proper way to do things, but I listen a lot more than I talk 🙂

  4. Sergio Felix says:

    Hey Jens,

    I’m a bit like you in the sense that I don’t open all the way up to just anyone I bump into while I’m online.

    With Facebook, I don’t have any issues, I do normally accept all peeps unless their pictures or their updates are not of my taste or do not interest me at all.

    On Skype though, that’s a whole different level.

    I don’t accept ANYONE unless it’s somebody I actually know already.

    I have accepted a few in the past and I normally regret doing so and then I have to be deleting these people from it.

    About the guest post, I still don’t accept guest posts nor I do them in other places. It is something I look forward to start doing but I still want to take a bit of my time to do so.

    I know it is very important to get new readers and more traffic but right now, I still want to be able to connect in a better way with the few ones that do read my blog, instead of opening up the site to new writers.

    Just my thoughts.


    • I still haven’t used Skype much, but if I had, I’m sure that I would do what you are doing. Skype is a lot more personal than Twitter, and even Facebook. But, my problem with Facebook is that there are so many different types of people using it. I have my friends, family, co-workers and clients using it. And I really need to know what I’m publishing and who’ll be reading it, because people are different, and my friends are not interested in reading about marketing, and my clients are not very interested in reading about my kids 🙂

      • Sergio Felix says:

        Hey Jens,

        I have two completely unrelated Facebook profiles.

        The personal one for my friends, family, co-workers, etcetera and the marketing one for anything marketing related.

        I don’t mix the people AT ALL.

        I keep it strictly separate, hope that helps!


  5. Vin says:

    If anyone tried to hug me randomly, it would be the last time they ever did! 🙂

    But, in all seriousness, I agree with you. It’s inappropriate to assume a level of comfortability just because you feel it’s OK. Like all relationships, whether their professional or personal, you need to start out slow and grow them organically.

    I don’t even like the idea of “growing” a relationship with the expectation of personal benefit. That just seems wrong to me. Beneficial relationships should be completely organic and not produced, in my opinion.

    • Slow works for me 🙂

      I believe that we shouldn’t be looking at the personal benefits at all. Because, if we give enough, we will receive, it’s just a matter of time. It’s giving that makes us stronger, and it’s giving that teaches us whatever we want to learn. Actually, it’s all about giving 🙂

  6. Adrienne says:

    Oh Jeans, I’m a hugger! Surprise!!! Even if you’re a stranger but don’t worry, I’ll make you feel comfortable.

    I called one of my new opt-ins yesterday just to introduce myself and I had him laughing within the first few minutes. The next thing you know, it was 15 minutes later and we hadn’t realized we had been chatting that long.

    I enjoy meeting people and turning strangers into friends. I don’t mind if a stranger friends me on Facebook but they better send me a message letting me know why they would like to connect. If they don’t then I won’t accept it.

    I also don’t accept guest posts from people I don’t know either. I also get a lot of requests from people wanting to write for my blog. That’s why I don’t even have guest posting rules because it’s by invitation only. At least for now it is.

    The way I approach people online that I want to friend is I’ll read more about them and find out what their interests are. I’ll see what we have in common and then send them a message letting them know why I’d like to connect with them. From there I try to learn more about them. Some people are open while others just aren’t.

    Enjoyed this post and your spin on things Jens. Interesting to learn how others view this here in your comments.


    • Hi Adrienne,

      No surprise that you’re a hugger 🙂

      But, I guess that you understand more than most people, and that you can make anyone feel comfortable. It’s all about who you are, and if you can spot an awkward moment, and turn it around to in a matter of minutes. And I bet you can 🙂

  7. Hi Jens! I admit, I’m a hugger as well – on and offline. I do watch for signals and try not to make anyone uncomfortable, especially someone I just met. Although often, I find that a new conversation often ends in a hug. 🙂

    As a musician, I welcome pretty much anyone into my social circle, because the more people who know about me the better. My online world is full of friends, family, former students, fans, fellow musicians, stars, and every in between. It’s always funny when people tell me they just watch what I’m up to on Facebook, but never comment or message me. I don’t mind, I’m happy they are watching. Maybe they’ll make it to a gig.

    I do find it easier to interact with strangers on Twitter – maybe it’s the ease of RT’s or the character limit that keeps rambling to a minimum… not sure.

    Thanks for the interesting post and comments.

    • Hi Monica,

      I bet that as a musician, it’s a lot better to be a hugger? I love to watch musicians on stage, and especially the ones that are talking between the songs. To me, it’s not just about the music, I want to connect with the musicians on a much personal level. And a hug might help a lot 🙂

      Twitter works great to interact with strangers, that’s where I mostly interact with them. Not so much on Facebook.

  8. Jack says:

    I am a hugger. It is just part of who I am, but I try to be respectful of the wishes of those I meet. No reason to make anyone uncomfortable.

    The blogosphere is a funny place, especially when you write a personal blog. Many people read our words and form opinions about us because they think they know us.

    Sometimes it is accurate and sometimes it is not. I share many things, but not everything about myself or my family.

    That being said I rarely accept guest posts. I suppose that is primarily because I don’t receive all that many requests for it and I haven’t ever asked anyone to do it.

    The requests that I have received have come bloggers who appeared to write for spam blogs so I wasn’t interested. When it comes to Facebook I will engage with people after I have had a bit of time to get to know them better.

    • Hey Jack,

      Have you always been a hugger, or did things change when you became a dad?

      I changed a lot after becoming a dad. I wasn’t a hugger before, and I am still not. But I am a lot less shy, and I am a lot more comfortable around people, even strangers 🙂

  9. I’m from the South and we usually hug, even strangers as long as they don’t appear to be psychotic. We also tend to call everyone “Hon.” As for Facebook, I usually accept people I don’t know, but the first time a strange man writes and wants to get better acquainted, I unfriend him immediately. There’s a verb that’s come into use lately. Unfriend. And I don’t post personal stuff on Facebook. No photos of kids in our family either. I’m dicey about that, even though their parents think it’s quite all right. Enjoyed your post, though we can agree to disagree.

    • Hey Velda,

      So, there’s a difference between the north and the south when it comes to hugging? I actually didn’t know that 🙂

      I haven’t unfriended many people on Facebook, but I have been using filters to avoid some to watch my updates.

  10. Bill Dorman says:

    I don’t know any strangers and I’m a serial hugger. I do worry because I know some people don’t like hugging and I can usually tell (afterwards) who was the most receptive so I do try to keep it in my memory bank for later.

    I will pretty much accept anybody after I’ve done a cursory check. If they know someone I know then that’s good enough for me.

    I have only turned down one guest post offer and that was because I didn’t know this person from anybody and when I went to their site it was just way too commercial for me.

    Just like in real life where I will walk right up to you whether I know you or not; I pretty much will do the same thing online as well. The funny thing is, you can tell who the huggers are and not online as well. The ones that are not are very stand-offish and not looking to engage any more than a very superficial level if even that much. But that’s just personalities, not a good or bad thing per se.

    Power to the pizza.

    • Power to the pizza Bill. I probably shouldn’t share how much pizza I have been eating lately, but let’s just say that I have eaten a lot more than usual 🙂

      So, you’re a serial hugger. That’s exactly what I would have guessed. I am a lot better with strangers now, than before. When I was a kid, I wouldn’t dare to look at people I didn’t know already 🙂

  11. John says:

    I wish I were a hugger sometimes. The truth is that I am far too shy, even with people I know well for hugging. The online world is much easier for me. I can look, listen and comment in my own time without feeling any social pressure.

    • Hi John,

      I understand exactly what you’re talking about. Many times, I wish I was a hugger as well. It’s so much easier to connect with people when you’re outgoing, and you hug them, and start talking (and smiling). Some people are born this way. I am learning every day, and I’m a lot less shy now than I used to be 🙂

  12. Jeevanjacobjohn says:

    I am not really comfortable with hugging a stranger, but hey, if they are good looking it’s okay 😀 (Just kidding..).

    I agree with your points about commenting, sharing and networking in the online world; That is indeed the best way to get started, to make positive relationships with others. But, when we approach someone through commenting, they are still a complete stranger, aren’t they?

    These days, when I visit a site for the first time and comment, I try to blend it (I usually don’t start with a greeting, just gets into the subject – I think that also plays an important role in building the relationship).

    I am pretty strict with accepting friends via FB. I only accept people when I know them or when a lot of my friend know them (In that case, it is normal that I know them, but don’t really remember them).

    I have accepted guest posts from stranger (if they are useful article), but I would prefer if interact with me, first

    Anyways, great post, Jens


    • Yes, they are a complete stranger when we approach them by commenting. But, to me, commenting is the right way to approach a complete stranger. It’s like small talk. We’re standing there, and they are asking for our opinion. We learn a little about them, they learn a little about us, and after more comments, we’ll start making a connection and a relationship. That’s how I look at it.

      It’s great that you start out by getting straight to the subject of the post. I do a little of both. Sometimes I say hi, and tell them how much I enjoyed the post, other times I just answer a question, or tell them about a related experience of mine. To me, the interaction is the point, and as long as we’re being personal and sharing an experience, we’re good 🙂

      • Jeevanjacobjohn says:

        I can see that the approach is working for you, Jens 🙂

        Right now, I am just experimenting with it: How the response can change when we start with a greeting and when we go directly into the subject (I know, there isn’t a real way to measure the results, but just experimenting with it).

        • I love experimenting too. But it takes time to get to know someone. And if the conversation starts out too pushy, it will take even longer to create a good and strong relationship.

  13. Lisa says:

    Very interesting, I am not a hugger upon first meeting, maybe at end of first meeting if we hit it off really well. I often hesitate to accept all FB requests because that’s where my personal friends and family are. I have accepted some from Twitter who I have gotten to know pretty well.

    • Hey Lisa,

      I am a lot like you when it comes to hugging. But I really do enjoy hugging, but I have to know the person first. I have no idea why I’m like this, but it’s all about emotions I guess.

      When it comes to the online world, I’m much more open, and I accept most people to both Facebook and Twitter. And I interact with everyone.

  14. helena says:

    i must confess i`m a hugger, I enjoy meeting people and turning strangers into friends. If i get a request from someone i dont know, if theve explained why they have contacted me then i`m all for getting to know more people, we always learn from others

    • Turning strangers into friends is what it’s all about. And some people are a lot better at doing this fast. I know several people who can stop and talk to complete strangers on the street, and five minutes later, it seems like they are best friends forever 🙂

      I’m not like that at all, but I’m learning… and some day I might be able to stop and talk to complete stranger. I’m a lot better at this in the online world 🙂

  15. James Martin says:

    Entering intimate relationship must be in consideration with any comfort zone. This is one way of getting things done with good rapport to others.

  16. Andreas Pazer says:

    I wish I were a hugger sometimes. The truth is that I am far too shy, even with people I know well for hugging. The online world is much easier for me. I can look, listen and comment in my own time without feeling any social pressure.

    • I’m a lot better with relationships in the online world as well. Online, it feels like I’m more in control, and I can do it when I feel like it, and with the people I have something in common with. Like you said, it’s no pressure 🙂

  17. Hi Jens,

    I’m always surprised when someone who has never even commented once on my blog(s) is asking me to post as a guest. Yes, it’s bit like a pure strangers is trying to give you a cold hug. That’s how I would call it.

    When that happens I am always wondering what those people are thinking, and if they are not thinking at all, then I don’t really need them on my blog 🙂

    Thanks for this interesting point 🙂

    • That happens to me a lot as well. It seems that many are still thinking that there are shortcuts to success, and that if you just give someone a hug, you’ll be best friends forever, or get all the benefits that friends get 🙂

  18. Ashvini says:

    Hey Jens,

    I agree with the idea that we need to go slow in order to win the trust. Often the trust develops over a period of time. I am right now getting mails after mails from a blogger. The only thing personal in the mail is my name ( I know that that can be arranged from aweber). The person has never bothered to talk to me on any front ( twitter, comments or anything ) and now probably wants me to buy the stuff.
    Its not going to happen ever because if the person is not talking to me now without making a dime, how will he or she ensure they would listen to me after I buy something from them.
    Listening to the people and treating them for real is the key to successful relationship which can be turned to marketing later on but still keeping the trust alive should be priority number one .

    • Hey Ashvini,

      That’s absolutely true. I get emails like that a lot as well, and I have never bought from a person like that. I buy a lot of things all the time, but almost always from people I have a relationship with. When I find something I want to buy, I am either going to ask the people I already know (like the people on my list) if they are an affilliate. If they are, I’ll buy from one of them.

      We shouldn’t push sales. Like you said, trust is crucial.

  19. Praveen Rajarao says:

    Hi Jens – That is a wonderful comparison of a “hug” with a “friend request on FB”. Never thought in those terms. I am a little open in accepting requests and even guest posts from strangers as long as the post is well written and makes a point to my readers.
    Hugging literally is out of question though, i am not much into physical intimacy with strangers and I would stay far from it 🙂

  20. Sonia says:

    I am not a hugger myself and when people I don’t know come up to me and touch me I tend to stiff up. They could smell the wrong way, for all I know and I am forever cursed with an bad smell of them. LOL! I know that is so mean, but I have seen and smelt worse.

    To get to know me, I love it when people are just straight to the point and real. I can smell BS a smile away, but I tend to “play along” if I feel I am being baited for something. On the flip side, I am about as nice as pie and I love talking to people. I respond to people I know as if they are a long lost friend I haven’t seen in years. Those people I will hug because the familiarity has already been established.

    • Hi Sonia,

      I understand exactly how you feel. I’m not that much of a hugger myself, but I do hug people that hug me. And especially if they are friends. But I’m not the one approaching them with a hug, I’ll give them the hug if they ask for it 🙂

  21. Hal Baird says:

    I would never go up to a complete stranger or someone I exchanged with on social media and give that person a hug. If that person hugged me first for some reason I would feel comfortable returning the affection. I am a hugger with those whom I know. Now that a hug between two men has become as socially acceptable as a handshake, I participate in the act. A post several back indicated that musicians are by nature huggers. Music is a hobby with me and it is perfectly normal for my choral director (male) and I to give each other an affection hug after a rehearsal or performance. It think the conveyed message is, “I appreciate all the hard work you did tonight.” But my rule is know somebody before you share affection.

    • Hi Hal,

      I understand what you said about the choral director. If the hug has a meaning, like great performance, from a person you already know. That’s great. But, for someone to just say hi and give you a hug, that’s something I’m not very comfortable with 🙂

  22. Nicky says:

    Interesting post Jens – I am a very affectionate person but only when I have got to know someone, so a hug from a complete stranger would definitely make me wonder what was going on.

    Similarly if anyone is too familiar with me the first time they “meet” me on the social networks or on my blog, then I am naturally less responsive. I like to see people’s faces and eyes in particular which is probably why I have never really got on with Twitter – I like Facebook, because you really can interact and take your time to build relationships.

    Great post,

    • Hi Nicky,

      That’s interesting. I haven’t thought much about it, but Facebook is more personal than Twitter. When I use Twitter, I am a lot more direct and I don’t care much about who’s reading my messages. But on Facebook, I’m a lot more careful. I don’t want to spam people, and I am thinking about who’s actually reading what I’m writing 🙂

  23. Ha, good stuff Jens!

    I like to give “hugs” using different platforms for different levels of intimacy. Google+ is great for engaging people you don’t know. I try to keep my FB to people I at least know moderately well – otherwise I will friend them on twitter or G+ first and establish a relationship.

    Thanks again for the good musing!

    • Hey Matt,

      I am using Twitter to have conversations with people I don’t know that well, and Facebook for people I have some kind of relationship with. But, G+, I haven’t used it enough yet. It’s more or less a network where I hit + for updates I like, and publish my latest posts. But that’s going to change 🙂

  24. Carolyn says:

    Hi Jens, I am definitely a hugger, but not with strangers. That being said, it doesn’t take much for me not to consider you a stranger.

    A week ago I had a business meeting for an hour with someone I had never met before. At the end of the meeting she gave me a hug. That’s how I knew the business meeting went very well.

    Online I’m a bit more cautious. Since I can’t see the person face-to-face, it takes me longer to connect with them. But I do believe I have many strong online connections and I love giving online (((hugs)))!

  25. Chris Barker says:

    Being intimate is a friendly approach when it comes to blogging. You should be friendly to whoever you’ve encounter online to build good relationship to others and to have many connections.

  26. Cat Alexandra says:

    Hi Jens,

    This was a neat way to get us all thinking! I really enjoyed the comparison to a real life type of scenario.

    Your example reminds me of one on why blasting ads on Social Media also is ineffective. I had once heard that this is kind of like being at a cocktail party where people are mixing and getting to know one another and some person just intruding into other people’s space, blurting out “Blah blah blah widget does blah blah blah – buy it now!”

    I find it helpful to put marketing ideas into context so we can understand why something works or doesn’t produce the intended results.

    To answer your questions, I’m not sure I have a predefined or specific set of guidelines for my own online comfort zone. I am pretty open with people, as long as things are professional between us. I don’t get too “touchy-feely” on any particular subjects because my personal life and business life are not one in the same as so many other people seem to do. I think you could say I’m sort of regimented in that way. Having said that, when it comes to connecting back on a person-to-person level, I’m very cordial and accommodating with people.

    I also welcome friend requests from strangers so long as they’re willing to connect. If there’s no connection or response back when I try to connect, I tend to move on.

    Great topic for discussion, Jens!

    Cat 😉

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