On-line networking when you don’t see the wood for the trees

Seeing the wood

The numbers

The other day I saw in my Twitter stream a conversation between two people I know moderately well, and like too. I don’t want to offend them if they read this, but one said she had increased her Klout score, and the other said he needed to work on raising his. Of course they might have been joking, but it isn’t always easy to detect irony in 140 characters.

Now, I am not going to have a go at Klout. It has its place in the world of social media, but really, it is a measure of activity. It is not a measure of useful activity. It cannot tell the difference. There are people with much lower scores than I have (yes, I looked :)) whom I consider more influential than I am.

Never mind the quality

What Klout mostly does is count the number of posts on Twitter and elsewhere, and presumably their algorithm looks at followers. However, what it doesn’t seem to do is distinguish between those who post only famous quotations, only sales messages, only stupid jokes etc. and those who have conversations and post useful information for followers.

People need people

To put it another way, on-line networking involves remembering you are talking to people who are your friends or may become friends. Perhaps you may recommend them and endorse their businesses as a happy customer. They may do the same for you if you deserve it. The most important aspect of any networking is being helpful, either in general or in particular. The more you help others, (and try to be altruistic) the more they may help you and if (no, when) you get business back, that’s all the better.

I am not quite saying Klout has no value. It may encourage you to drive your marketing as long as you are not making all the mistakes. Klout is really a game. On-line networking is not about the number of trees, but the actual wood and what is in it. It is not about the crowd but each individual person.

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How I tailor my business purchases and strategies to my needs

An alternative title to this post might be “How I run an introverted business in an extroverted way” since the two are inter-linked.

My business is for the most part involved in dealing with tax issues. There is some flair required, but no artistic ability. That means that in terms of hardware, I have what I need, and invest in the literal sense in what is required. In my case that means a Windows-based network to run the specialist software I need to buy. There is no equivalent for say Mac or indeed for a Linux system, so I use Windows and on the whole it is reliable. Yes, I could use a Windows emulator but it would be an additional risk to data.

I do like gadgets. If I had the resources and I thought it made sense I would have a Mac, an iPhone, and iPad, an iPod and every new toy possible, but maybe I am a bit conservative. Though I could claim most of them for business expense purposes, in reality it would not wash with my conscience. I content myself with having loaded Ubuntu on two old machines both over eight years old which are not worth a bean now but are much happier with the lighter requirements of Linux. They can still function well though they would not manage with their old Windows systems in the modern world.

My point is that I do not invest more money than I think I need to to take the business forward. I try not to invest too little either.

However, I do think it well worth targeting on-line presence with some investment, both financially and in terms of time. My websites and indeed my blogs will be undergoing a makeover very soon which is where the financial investment is coming in. I need to be noticed as we all do.

So I am active in social media,and of course it is fun interacting with people who were already friends, who have become friends on-line, and in looking for more amongst those whom I am following and who are following me. I invest a few hours a week, and it is after all no chore talking to friends as well as commenting on their blogs and mentioning my own.

It is important not to try to do too much. Just as in off-line networking one can go to too many events organized by too many different people and end up not having time to follow-up so it is with on-line networking. You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Ecademy and FriendFeed. If you want to you can find me on Facebook. I think any more would spread my attention too thin to have conversations with people, and that is what it is about, even for an introvert like me with a necessary but not very showy business.

I am registered on foursquare because I was invited, but I do not have a clever phone yet, not being convinced I need one. Convince me, and I will join you all there.

In the meantime I will continue my on-line stuff as it is and will attempt anything else I think will be useful, as social media evolves and never stays still. I will keep blogging and picking up blogging tips. Chris Brogan recommended Technorati for helping blog reading figures – thank you Chris – and here is a code for the Technorati people : G4W22KBUX42W

We have to be out there talking and being seen, and for some of us it was a skill we had to learn. However, just as we need to preserve our cash flow and tailor our expenses to our needs, we have to follow the same philosophy with our social media too. That way it will be fun and will not overwhelm us.

What do you think? Do you see things differently, and why? I would love to know.

© Jon Stow 2010

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