The biggest downfall of anyone getting involved in social media and social networking is the Social Media Scoreboard.
- The Scoreboard only cares about numbers.
- The Scoreboard is used to rank us against one another.
- The Scoreboard provides no actual value.
The Scoreboard is a master seducer. It whispers temptingly in your ear, “You need more friends. Add more friends. More, more, more.”
What the Scoreboard fails to tell you is that it could care less what you do with those friends, as long as you’re piling them up.
You Can’t Ignore the Scoreboard
Let’s face it, you simply can’t ignore the Scoreboard. Maybe if you have insane willpower or you’re completely anti-social, but once it lights up once or twice with growing numbers, you’re hooked. Ask anyone that has a story hit the front page of digg what it’s like. They’ve got mini-scoreboards in their eyes.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having lots of friends on social media and social networking sites. In fact, I wouldn’t even dissuade you from it. But you have to know what you want out of them and how to get it.
What Do You Want Out Of Social Media?
It’s the most important question you can ask once you delve into the world of social media and social networking. I include blogging in the mix as well under the “social media” umbrella, because many people still question the value of blogging.
If you’re into social networking to keep in touch with friends, that’s great. But recognize the fact that all social networks are professional. For example, prospective employers use social networks to research candidates. And there’s no shortage of business opportunity…
At a high level, here are four things you can get out of social media:
- Social media is about personal brand. It’s about providing you with a platform to express and demonstrate your domain expertise, interests, values and goals. It provides an extension for describing who you are to the outside world. Everyone should be cognizant of their own personal brand. Social media can catapult your personal brand in ways that nothing else can.
At the outset, when you first start blogging, or using social networking sites like Facebook, you might not know exactly what kind of personal brand or online persona you want to project. That’s OK. But realize that personal branding is one of the critical factors and value propositions to social media and networking.
- Social media is about reputation and trust. Reputation and trust are huge components of your personal brand. And the discussion of reputation and trust is increasing substantially, as less-than-savvy marketers infiltrate social networks with endless sales pitches.
- Social media is about making money. I’m not sure when “making money” became a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. And there’s a ton of opportunity online to properly leverage social media marketing. On top of that, many people look at how to use social media in a business context, bringing all of the proper practices of running a good business to the areas of social media. For example, Chris Brogan’s thinking about how to measure social media efforts. That convergence – between social media and business – is important, because it helps legitimize social media for business, and create best practices we all benefit from.
- Social media is about discovering opportunities you didn’t know existed. A huge aspect of social media and social networking is discovery. Putting yourself out there and seeing what happens. And we see plenty of success stories of people involving themselves in social media and finding value they didn’t know was there. Eric at gardenfork found ways of using social media for small town community development. His extensive use of social media tools (including video) has now given him the chance to consult others as well. Becky McCray at Small Biz Survival has earned writing opportunities because of the exposure from blogging. And Tatsuya Nakagawa, CEO of Atomica Creative was surprised at all the speaking engagements thrown his way.
But How Do I Get All Of That Out Of My Friends?
That’s really the big question. The value of social media is proven. But the Social Media Scoreboard has warped our view of how to extract that value. It wants you to add as many friends as you can, for no other reason but to have as many friends as you can. That’s not a useful goal.
An equally important question is, “How do I get the right friends?”
This may sound callous (although it’s not intended that way), but contacts and friends are meant to be leveraged. If you can’t use a friend for something of value to yourself, then they’re just another point on the Scoreboard. Of course, you should expect friends to use you as well, because then you’re proving your worth beyond the Social Media Scoreboard.
The key to finding friends and leveraging them is being observant.
As you delve into social media, blogging and social networking you’ll start wanting to accomplish certain goals. Maybe it’s getting on the home page of digg. Maybe it’s meeting an A-lister that could help your business. Maybe it’s generating a ton of buzz for your new product launch. Regardless of the goal, your powers of observation will help you find the right friends and show you how to use them successfully.
Here are some quick tips:
- Read people’s profiles. How many of you actually read people’s profiles on sites like MyBlogLog and Facebook? More than likely you hit the “add a friend” button and move on. But people are leaving tons of valuable details about themselves on these sites. The most important being contact details.
A quick personal anecdote: Many months ago I started delving into digg and how to use it effectively. It was clear that a handful of power diggers submitted a lot of content, much of which hit the front page. If you wanted to be successful on digg, befriending power diggers made sense. But how could you reach them? I then noticed (through the MyBlogLog widget) one of the power diggers visiting my blog a few times. On MyBlogLog, I found his AIM handle in his profile. Voila. A point of contact.
Keeping my eyes open, following the trail, allowed me to build a very valuable relationship. I think he’d agree.
- Figure out how people want to be contacted. In an age of social network overload it’s critical that you figure out how people want to be reached. For example, many A-listers in the blogging and social media worlds are completely overloaded by email. But they’ll answer Facebook messages. Or reply to a direct Twitter. It’s not that hard to find out the best way to reach people, and meeting them on their terrain of choice will go a long way to starting the relationship off on the right foot.
- Find common ground or something you can offer. It’s much easier to reach out to someone when you share something in common. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to scan a person’s blog, About page, or track them via social media to find points of commonality. Use those when reaching out.
Better yet, provide something of value right off the bat. If you’re paying attention, they’ve probably told you in some way what they might need help with. Get in there and provide that help. Befriend them as more than just another point on their Scoreboard. Be useful.
None of this takes a ton of time. It might only take 10 minutes a day. When you first get rolling in social media, it’ll likely take a lot longer than that, but over time you spend less energy hunting for new relationships and more time nurturing those that already exist. And, as you raise your profile, others will reach out to you. As long as they’re not addicted to the Social Media Scoreboard, you’ll find ways of providing mutual benefit to one another.
The Social Media Scoreboard is a nefarious beast. It’s never satiated. It doesn’t care who you know, or why you know them, just as long as you know a ton of people. Heck, you don’t even have to know people, just “befriend them” and leave it at that. The Social Media Scoreboard thinks “befriending” means “clicking a few buttons and never doing anything else” and that’s just not good enough. So ignore the Social Media Scoreboard (as much as you can!) and you’ll get a ton of value from social media.