Social networks are about quality and not quantity

There’s a great site gag in the movie Blazing Saddles where Sheriff Bart recounts how his African-American family came west as part of a wagon train when they were attacked by Indians. “The white wagon train groups together in a circle. Naturally, the white folks didn’t let us travel in their circle, so we made our own.(the site gag was the the sole black wagon riding around in circles). Using a social service by yourself isn’t much fun (and about as useful as driving your wagon in a circle by yourself) and in general, having friends is a good thing. But getting started is hard. It’s one of the questions I get most from new bloggers, twittereres or what ever.
First, get past the folks that are hyper competitive about numbers. For some folks, these services are a popularity contest or something they believe they can monetize. They’re concerned with being at the top of TechMeme, making the Technorati 100, having the largest LinkedIn network and often complain about Facebook’s cap of 5,000 “friends”. (and of course, one person attempting to sell his Twitter followers on eBay). If you really are into that stuff and just want to game the numbers, drop me a line and I’ll tell you how to do it. Gaming any system isn’t hard.
It’s not about the number of readers or followers you have, or the size of your networks or the even the number of people you read or follow. It’s the quality of the people in them and the quality of the conversations you’re having with them. I’ve been blogging for a while and use services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and more recently Twitter. Of course, it’s nice to be followed, read or part of a network. The way to do that is with interaction. One thing I always tell new bloggers is to send readers away to attract them to come back. Linking to other people as well as adding something new to the dialogue is important. Same with twitter. Most of the folks I follow, that i didn’t know before using the service are folks who sent me an interesting @message. (interestingly, folks seem to Twitter differently than they blog, to the point that I no longer follow them on Twitter and in a few cases, no longer read their blog).
Bear in mind, networks are a different animal. Anyone can follow me on Twitter and I’ll follow anyone with something interesting to say. My personal and professional networks are different. For most people, those are relationships that have come over time and are not something that most folks treat lightly. The way of becoming a part of someone’s virtual network are pretty much the same as becoming part of their offline one.
At the end of the day, it’s the quality relationships that matter over time, never the sheer numbers. I’ll take one real true friend over 5,000,000 Facebook friends any day.

One response to “Social networks are about quality and not quantity

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