I have spent countless hours pouring myself into blogs, forums, tweets, messages and contributed content for the simple reason of growing my network. There are millions of people still new to social networking and are trying to learn how to use it to their advantage for their businesses and themselves. One of the most common misconceptions of new social networking users is the perceived need to grab up every friend, fan and follower they can within their first few days using social.
I had a great meeting with a local business owner this week in which I consulted with him on some of the basics to social networking. I encouraged him to think of social networking as a place where you don’t necessarily reach out to people, but a place where you contribute as much valuable content as possible so that others reach out to you. He thought about it for a minute and I could see in his face that he got it. He finally understood one of the more important attributes to being a good social network-er because I put it in a way he could understand. This basic concept should be one of the first things a social network-er should learn and grasp.
Social networking is a tool for contributing valuable content to a large community so that others may reach out to you in seek of your expertise.
There is nothing more saddening than someone who feels they are trying so hard to gain traction in the social arena but are met with continued disappointment. It reminds me of the people who spend many hours working out and eating healthy but their bodies refuse to loose weight or tone up. It could be because they are doing something wrong or do not fully understand the proper processes. I want to just quickly address some things that could help new users better understand how to network via social networking and provide tips to those who work with clients who are new to it as well.
There are hundreds of people out there that currently serve the same purpose as spam bots but don’t feel that they are doing anything wrong. These are the people who tweet religiously, send friend requests to local people and post on everyone’s wall. Now, at first glance, this doesn’t seem too bad. After all, they are doing their best to reach out to the community, right? Here’s the problem. They are harvesting users. If your list of friends, followers and fans is made up of nothing more than individuals who you know nothing about and vice versa, you might as well of sent 10,000 mailers to businesses and people with the wrong address. You are throwing away your time.
When harvesting, the good social network-er’s and businesses will quickly fight you off by denying any request you throw at them. To these people, you are spamming their accounts and doing nothing more than stalking them and their friends/followers/fans. To them, you haven’t contributed anything valuable and could even be confused for a bot. You might ask why these people matter… after all, you can just go find more people to harvest. Well, in short – the people deleting you and denying your requests, are usually the people who are most valuable to you and your business. These are the individuals who pay close attention to their social profiles and enjoy soaking up everything the community has to contribute. These are the people who if are ready to purchase a product or service, are 120% more likely to look to their valuable partners who have contributed something to them via social networks.
Ok, so you get the concept and are ready to start contributing. Your first question is “Who should I sell my contributions to?”. WRONG. 75% of contributed online content is considered free. News organizations keep a tighter lid on their policies but as an individual or small business, give it away for free. Go in with the mindset that you don’t want anything in return, that gaining a reader of your blogs is much more important than trying to take from the community. Don’t take from it, give to it and it will give back. Proper social networking is surprisingly a great example of how we should interact in person. Consider this – what one person takes, someone else had to work hard for.
I encourage you to work hard and contribute as much as you can to the community. Trust me, it gives back to you. Currently, I have about 81 followers on Twitter. I reached out to maybe 10, about 8 others are friends and family and the rest were people responding to my contributions on the internet, such as this blog. There are so many values to building relationships with people eager to hear more from you. Try reading Thomas Baekdal’s recent article entitled “The Power and Value of a Fan“, I highly recommend it. He specifically dials into the numbers and details the actual value of a Fan.
If you’re new to social networking, don’t worry! There are thousands of people with thousands of helpful articles who are contributing daily so that you may find something, like this blog, to guide you into social prosperity.