Hopefully this won’t come as too much of a surprise, but….Social media networking really isn’t all that different from traditional networking. Whether you meet face to face or online, there is always an issue of quality versus quantity: quality of network interactions versus quantity of network connections.
And there is no shortage of blog posts, tweet chats, and Google+ shares that will tell you that it is quality that matters most. (In fact, I’m pretty sure I have written and shared a good amount of content on the subject.)
But now that social media has been around a while (and so have I!), I have to admit that I no longer agree quite so emphatically.
And here’s why:
1. In networking, social or traditional, quantity will “trump” quality IF you are reaching your target market.
Now, I know when you are a job seeker or career management candidate, you don’t typically think in terms of target market. But you do have one. (Really, like any good business strategy, you must have one.)
Therefore, when it comes to reaching that target market, the numbers don’t lie. Let’s face it. No company wants to limit its customer reach to just 10 or 20 or even 100 loyal patrons. It wants limitless loyal patrons!
And so do you.
So, yes, you want “quality” connections, but even more so, you want lots of them! Why? Because you can’t tap the same 5 wells every time. And by broadening your reach, you are giving yourself a chance to be more referable (or recommendable, if you prefer).
And being referable is really what networking, social or otherwise, is all about. You referring others. Others referring you. That is hard to achieve if you “spray and pray” and equally as hard if you only let a select few into the “circle of trust.”
2. People only have so much time for meaningful engagement.
Now this one will probably get me into a little trouble with my social media pals (or #SoMe as they like to call it). Right now, “engagement” is all the rage (another topic I have written extensively on). And don’t get me wrong, it is a very nice thought. When it does happen in a meaningful way, it can be extremely effective for both parties involved.
But…(and this is a big BUT)…I hate to break it to you…
BUT not everyone wants to be your friend.
Some people just want to have professional connections that they can feel comfortable referring out to one another. And they are busy with the really important stuff like raising their kids. AND just like you, they are using social media as a means to an end…they want to take more than they give.
So although they don’t want you to “advertise” to them, I’m not convinced they are interested in discussing the meaning of life with you either (even the meaning of career life).
So when you think engagement, again, think about how you can refer things/people to them that will make their professional lives easier. For instance, they are having such and such issue at work. Maybe you know someone in your large target market of connections that you can introduce them to?
3. Providing content is nice, but nobody reads it.
Now I know this one is really going to raise some hairs. Marketing, and networking as an extension of marketing (or “branding”), is all about content marketing right now. In fact, it is so hot that Google has pretty much wiped out traditional SEO measures in favor of content-driven search.
It’s like there is this sudden fascination with reading. IF only….
Really what it is is an attempt to let other people know you know something about something, and you are the resource to go to on that subject. So, maybe at some point, someone will read it, but it is more likely you are leaving an impression. The impression you are the Go-To person on this subject for your network.
And this doesn’t entail just the stuff you create, but the stuff you share. In fact, the stuff you share is probably equally as important as the stuff you create.
So, now, here’s where the quantity versus quality debate comes back in:
Because engagement is fleeting and content is skimmed, it is your connections in your target market that will make it all matter much.
And you want lots of them…because it takes lots of them to get the “word” out about you.
Don’t be fooled like so many are that social media is all about the little guy. “Grassroots! Grassroots,” they shout when something goes viral. But in reality, it takes dedication and a focused strategy, countless hours, and probably a team of people behind you to make social media work for you.
And although quality connections do matter, in the end, you need A LOT of them.