Givers, Takers and Fakers

Identifying your friends in business may be harder and more revealing than you think

by Jason Falls |

The social marketing space is an awesome collection of people. I’ve had the good fortune to get to know many of them in the last few years. Generosity of time and spirit is a common thread. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case. I spent three years or so helping other people build their businesses, lending time, travel, ideas, promotions, etc. When I needed help building my business, the true colors showed. Genuine friends emerged. The others were outed, even if they didn’t know it.

Then there were a few who didn’t jump to volunteer and help me with my business that I thought would if I asked. Despite my tendency to not explicitly ask for help and allow the good people to just know I need it, I asked. Most helped. Some did not. Mind you, I never asked for anything big. Introduce me to a prospect. Tell your audience about what I’m doing in a relevant way. Tell folks about my book, etc.

The lessons learned in dealing with this world of wonderful people is that not everyone is what they appear to be. This doesn’t mean they are bad, only that they naturally gravitate to one type of person or another. There are givers and there are takers. Givers tend to genuinely share and help. They don’t expect the same in return, but if you give it, they’re friends for life. The takers are in one of two subsets: The takers and the fakers.

The takers are outright selfish and easily identified. They don’t fit in the social marketing industry because they don’t first have the genuine approach to sharing and community most of us do. They don’t get the rule of reciprocation.

The fakers are the worst of the two, however. They tell you for years, “You let me know if you ever need my help. I’m there for you.” When you need them, they disappear. Or worse, tell you they won’t help and excuse it as if there’s a reason that makes it okay.

I’ve spent the better part of a couple years trying to figure out the fakers. The ones I came across surprised me. I thought they were genuine. I thought that my dozens of good deeds might be worth one in trade. They appeared to be givers. They talked a good talk. But when the money was on the table, they could only walk the walk if they got a piece of it. They’ll help you, but only if it also helps them.

Fakers aren’t easy to spot. I’m not sure if I have advice for any of you who wish to find them. But now you know they’re there. Maybe that will help keep your antennae up and alert.

When I finally put my foot down and started focusing on building my business along with the genuine people who wanted to help me, life got easier. Yes, I could have been more successful had I appeared at this event or done that webinar or promoted that person’s thing. But I rested easy knowing that the people I helped were at least willing to help me, even if I never asked. The stress avoided was worth whatever price I paid.

The business world is funny. You learn so much, even when you’re not expecting to. Maybe I’m not the right person to be doling out entrepreneurial advice — many have made much more money and built much larger or successful companies than I. But I can’t help but tell you to go to bat with the right teammates. Friend the right people. Surround yourself with those who can help you succeed.

But know that success isn’t about revenues or margins or profits. It’s about doing what you do and being proud of the effort, content with your soul and happy with the world you’ve built.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).