The value of social networking has nothing to do with how many “friends,” “fans” or “followers” you have. If I see one more Tweet about “how I got 3000 new followers overnight,” I am going to scream. Who cares about these followers? Why should you care about them, when they obviously don’t care about you?
Sometimes, a client asks me, “how many Twitter followers can you get us?” This question immediately raises a red flag. A very big one. How MANY did you ask? Who cares how many? Instead of getting sucked into this foolish numbers game, why don’t you ask me, WHO are the followers you are going after, how are you going to get them to follow back, and how are they going to be useful to our business? Now THAT’S a question I am happy to answer. Or at least try to answer.
Seth Godin recently said, “Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake. What the Internet has allowed is an enormous amount of fake networking to take place, and it’s so easy to be seduced by it… and it’s nonsense.”
Mr. Godin is correct, of course (he always is, isn’t he?) The value of social networking, especially for businesses, is in the opportunity to form real, genuine relationships with people and organizations who are relevant to your business, and who may be far less approachable in real life than they are on the Web.
The next time you fret about being “unpopular,” or about having less followers than others you see around you, stop and think for a moment: if you have formed real connections with a handful of people through social networking, you are using this tool correctly. But if you have thousands of followers, who are at best a collection of meaningless faces and broken sentences, and often place an overwhelming demand on your time, you are simply allowing fake networking to seduce you. There’s absolutely no value in that, business or personal.