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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Why we don’t need social media for business

Losing the plot?

Well, we tend to forget that social media is (are) a means to an end. Or maybe it was just me. I can’t speak for you.

Like lots of people I have embraced Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, signed up for newsletters and blogs of interesting people, and of course bought things from various people and businesses. The result is that my email inbox is being inundated with lots of stuff, most of which I never read.

In addition to subscribing to blogs via email I also collect new posts vis Google Reader. Do you know what? I almost never look at Google Reader so miss out on most of whatever I thought I might like. Sad, isn’t it?

Having a clear-out

So anyway I run a business; well I own three actually. I have got past doing everything myself of course, to free up time to run my business and spend my time more valuably. I still have to use the time though, so it is no good eating into it reading a lot of stuff that probably isn’t really useful.

What I am doing about this? Well, now each time I see a new post I think about whether I need it. If I don’t I unsubscribe. I have done a lot of that recently. That’s not to say that there is not content that I do value. However if I spend all day reading other people’s blogs and what might be useful information, I can’t take it all in and still have time for my serious business life.

What is easy to forget is that social media interaction, and blogs where we like to comment, involve people. It is the people we need to think about and not the game

I am not the only one who is cutting down, but he is not one I am going to unsubscribe from.

We can employ others to do our work or we can subcontract and either way manage our businesses. But we can’t do that when we are eating into our time reading stuff we might never need and using on-line networks in a less than efficient way.

People matter

I am staying with Twitter. I like Twitter and I have made valuable new contacts there. I have helped people. I have gained business via Twitter. I just don’t need to post 25+ times a day or worry about irrelevancies such as Klout scores. In networking I have always preferred quality over quantity and I think that includes my own output. People know who I am. Better still, I know who other people are whom I would turn to.

So it isn’t social media that we should worry about. It is the people we meet through participation.

Have you got too busy with the social media game, can you manage the fast pace, or are you cutting down too?

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Chasing the numbers or taking a gamble?

Having been networking on-line for quite a long time – eight years – I have quite a significant contact network out there. It is not the biggest network because I do not add people just to bolster my scores. I still have an issue with Dunbar’s number which is the village in my head, so I cannot “know” everyone.

I interact with quite a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook and some other on-line platforms, and also talk to bloggers through comments on their blogs and sometimes on mine. That means I think that somewhere down the end of the hall there is a revolving door where some people come into my mental village and some leave, whether they or I are aware of it or not.

The Virtual High Street and Main Drag

I am not against having a large number of contacts on Twitter or LinkedIn. Being out there with one’s “open for business” A-board on the virtual pavement outside the virtual shop means someone might see it, drop in and buy. You just never know. It’s not networking in the conventional sense though, because we have no idea who is passing by even if we have a connection which means they do pass by our shop.

The problem for people just concentrating on having a large number of contacts is that it is very hard to make sure that the right people are passing. Some sign up to follow through automated Twitter search platforms and they may be lucky in getting business for all I know, but it seems pretty aimless for the most part. Still, each to their own.

Focus

What worries me is that lots of people concentrate on actively pursuing the numbers in a completely unfocussed way thus wasting their time. It can be an addiction akin to gaming or even gambling, thinking that the next batch of contacts will really pay off. The biggest danger in business is wasting time on things that don’t work.

Have you gone for big numbers? Has it worked? If so, well done and please share your experience. If it hasn’t worked, shouldn’t you be trying a more channeled and organized approach to your on-line strategy and your marketing in general?

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Losing touch with reality in social media

A place to relax

I have been away for a while taking a holiday, or if you prefer, a vacation. I really needed to step back and it was great to do so.

Due to my actually having a rest from normal in-front-of-computer activities and leaving my HTC Desire alone, I have been less active on Twitter and Facebook, though I have posted on “On our bikes.” I have interacted less with my friends, partly due to having a good rest, and otherwise because I have had a five hour time difference from quite a lot of them, so I have not seen them about and they have not seen me. Fair enough? I was on vacation.

Just for fun I checked my scores on Klout and PeerIndex, and guess what? They have declined. Why? Because I have made less noise on Twitter and elsewhere. I have still read my favourite blogs from around the world and have tweeted them if they resonated with me. I have not been totally absent from the World Wide Web.

Have my on-line networking friends forgotten me? I think not. There is something to the expression “out of sight, out of mind” but even so my reappearance will restore me to their view. Has my influence declined? I doubt it. If I was trusted before I will still be trusted. Friendships off-line are not damaged by a few weeks of not talking, and I cannot believe on-line friendships with or without an off-line relationship are damaged either.

Social relationships are important in managing our lives. Mostly we do not think about them as anything other than how we feel about people. Being able to count friends on a networking site might be fun, and for some a matter to boast about, but in the end a friendship or a relationship, however distant, is something intangible and to do with emotion and empathy.

What a friendship or a relationship is not is a commodity. Are we in danger of losing sight of this given the Next Big Thing in social media? Are people really for buying and selling? Is there a danger of bullying; of making people feel bad? It is not much of a game when that could happen.

I have said before I do not take my social media scores seriously. A pinch of salt is definitely required. I value real relationships with real people with whom I feel I have an affinity. Don’t you?

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