Being big in a Social Network is like being the most popular kid in Grade 7

Big Deal T-shirt (credit: tba)Today, a quick reflection prompted by a t-shirt (pictured).

There is a danger when spending a lot of time in online social networks of equating the ability to garner comments and ‘likes’ with actually being a person with amazing superpowers.

I have just been conducting some online marketing audits of websites and social network presences for new clients and one thing that struck me was how often most people get 95% of their Facebook comments and likes from the same group of five people or less.

The danger with this is that it is really a fishbowl experience in this instance. You are talking around the same circles and bouncing into the same people (and your reflection).

Now, from a human and social point of view there is nothing wrong with this. Sociologists tell us that we actually have a quite a low limit to the number of people with whom we can form meaningful relationships.

However, from a marketing perspective it is important to remain aware that if you are in this situation with your Facebook page or Twitter account or Youtube channel, etc, then you have not really taken off yet.

So what can I do about it?

Assuming you have developed a sound rationale and set of goals for your social marketing efforts, one of the first things you can do to expand your circles of influence in online (and offline) social networks is to actually bring value to the group.

Just like the primary school analogy in today’s headline, I recall some tactics my mum used for me when I started at a new school early in the primary years. She would make sure I packed an interesting toy or two to play with so that others might be attracted, interested and then engaged.

As adults in social networks, the best tactics arise from developing a mindset that arouses your sincere curiosity in others. Then you will be able to:

  • ask questions about them and their jobs/businesses/organisations
  • react to their questions and comments
  • if they produce a comment or link or resource that impresses you, share it with your networks

Head in the Klouts

We have to remember, when we submerge ourselves into online social networking, that it is a a slightly different world in there and a lot easier to rack up trophies of comments and ‘likes’ that look impressive on your ‘wall’ but do not necessarily convert to hard, cold cash!

So, while it is great to be popular in the online social networks, we must remember that at some point we need to transfer our profile to the ‘real’ world.

This is why I struggle to get excited by Klout, a service that ranks your social network popularity based on numbers of followers and subsequent activity that ensues when you publish content.

Some hotel chains actually look up your Klout score and give you free upgrades if you have a high Klout score because they are hoping you will Tweet about your stay and influence  your adoring public.

There are two key issues:

  1. Online social network followers have no ‘skin in the game’. It is easy to follow people, to re-share their utterances, even produce a recommendation for them.
  2. The chattering classes in these ‘hip’ and glam networks often rave unendingly about a wine, a fashion store, a chocolate, a bar, etc, but expect freebies. As do their friends. It can be risking chasing adoration from these legions of fair-weather, fickle friends who will be a click away from the ‘next hot thing’.

In summary, services like Klout can be fun and basking in moments of online love and support from your very own, virtual entourage can be nurturing, but my concern is that it is crucial to keep it honest and think about the message on today’s t-shirt from time to time:

I’m kind of a big deal on a fairly irrelevant social media site that falsely inflates my ego

Maybe the Aussie habit of trimming tall poppies can be healthy in moderation, especially when it is you trimming your own tall poppiness from time to time!

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