Well, it’s not just Twitter. It’s Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and most of the new social networking tools. Twitter is probably just the worst offender. While the popularity of these social networking tools continues to skyrocket and our networks within them continue to expand, we have to ask ourselves if we are missing the point.
I am currently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo, among others. LinkedIn is my favourite, followed by Twitter and then Facebook. I haven’t yet figured out the value of Plaxo. The danger I see with these technologies is, by their nature, they are focused on quantity of connections rather than quality. In fact, services are now available where you can buy thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook friends (see Usocial). There is a built in psychic reward associated with having a bigger network. Conversely, there is a personal, psychic penalty associated with having a small, fledgling network. The inevitable consequence is an inner hunger for ever more connections. But to what end?
As humans, we are social beings. We need social connections. We thrive with healthy connections and wither without them. We also thrive with diversified connections. The person with a homogeneous group of friends, who all think and act alike, is narrow-minded and boring. Hanging out with people who have different perspectives challenges and broadens us. Learning different perspectives enables us to think with increasing layers of complexity and to think more creatively and more intelligently.
Having said that, having lots of superficial connections does nothing meaningful for us or our connections. Social media is just a technology. It’s just one of many ways we can reach out and touch others. It’s flattering to receive emails notifying me that I have more followers on Twitter or to receive invitations to join different networks on LinkedIn or Facebook. Wouldn’t you agree? However, as we reach out and make new connections, let’s not forget to bring increasing value to the people who are already in our networks.
I recently took a look at my client list. Like you, I’ve got great clients! They’re interesting and they’re doing great things with their careers. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to work with them. Spending time with people who know me and value my work and who are open to a deeper relationship is far more valuable and rewarding than making another superficial contact. I think we need to consciously prioritize true and meaningful connections over superficial ones.
Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against social media. The danger is we can get sucked into chasing what we don’t have rather than valuing what we do have. This is true personally as well as professionally. We need to look at the relationships we do have and realize how fortunate we are to have these people in our lives. We need to spend time thinking about how we can enrich their lives. Paradoxically, the more fulfillment we can create for the people who are already in our network, the more attractive we become to people who are outside our network.
Front End vs. Back End
I think the people who are spending an inordinate amount of time in social media are robbing themselves of rich relationships. Social media is just one of many lead generation front ends to bring people into our network. But once they’re in, then what? Investing in the back end is what matters. Build depth in your funnel so that as clients work with you, they are constantly amazed at the value you provide. Once you’ve got that figured out, social media, like other front end technologies, will bring new people into your world and you’ll be confident that their journey with you will be meaningful, fulfilling and mutually rewarding.
Here are 3 things you can do, to enrich your network and ensure you don’t get caught in the superficial net of social media:
• Reach out to an inactive client and get caught up on what’s happening in their world;
• Invite an active client to come to your office and talk about what’s going on in their world and what their most pressing priorities and challenges are;
• Ask a long-time client to tell you what they value about you and how you might bring greater value to them.
Life is all about relationships. If we are not in meaningful relationships and doing meaningful work, we will be haunted by an increasing feeling of insignificance. Connections matter not because they are many, but because they are meaningful.
About the Author:
Adrian Davis is Founder and President of Whetstone Inc., a management consulting firm, devoted to helping business-to-business organizations tap unrealized profit potential, forge deeper connections with their customers and unlock the power of their purpose and passion.