Searching For Relevance In Social Networks

girl on phoneLEADING THOUGHTS Social media is great at keeping you in touch with the people you know. It’s extremely powerful to be able to meet someone online and punctuate it with a meeting offline. It’s just as powerful when you meet offline and nurture the relationship online until you meet again.

Another thing that makes social media really work is the ability to grow your network, meet like-minded individuals and engage in thoughtful conversations with them. The more you can do that, the more people will learn about you, and the more you can help others, the more people will want to work with you and…. Ready? Buy from you!

We’ve talked on this blog about the ability to turn social media into your very own cocktail party. When you get to the party, just make sure to not sell directly. Rather, have your smarts, experience and personality sell for you. Let’s back up for a second though.. Before you get to the party, you need to know which party you want to go to, and which small group inside that party you want to spend your time with.

You can’t possibly talk to everyone who is on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other network — the same way you can’t swim the whole “social river” from end to end, and the same way you can’t boil the ocean. What you can, and should, do is figure out who your target market is, and what your community is. Your target market may be, and probably will, be more limited than the larger community in which you run. You may be targeting moms with kids age 3-8, but your larger community would be “mommy bloggers” (with kids of all ages), and any other convergence points for these moms. How about publishers that review products for that demographic? How about “mommy blogger” conference organizers? Yes, you want to make sure you open up a dialogue with all of the above groups, even though they themselves won’t be consuming your product. These are the “influencers” — people who are able to affect trial and purchase decisions in your market.

With social media, you can easily find and connect with your target users and anyone even tangentially related to the decision making process. You just have to know where to look and how to find what you are looking for. Our CEO Jon Ferrara talks about the concept “swimming in the social river”, which is very telling if you can use it to visualize the process. Let’s take Twitter, for example — the fastest river out there. You could just follow the stream that consists of all the people all over the world, posting all about their favorite things all at the same time — good luck! Or you could selectively partition off a portion (via a hashtag, search term or list), and get to know the people there — which is a much more doable strategy.

I really love the notion of “contextual networks” explained here by Brian Solis — an article that’s couple of years old, but just as true today. “On Social Networks we’re bound by context and not necessarily by the relationships that link us in the real world,” says Brian, and I agree. I may participate in an ad-hoc community around community management or customer service on Twitter, I may join a Facebook group on photography, and discuss social media monitoring in a blog’s comments. In each case, these may be overlapping groups of people, as much as they may be discreet. I may know them, and I may not; however, my real-life relationship may not have as much bearing on this contextual relationship as subject matter.

We’re reaching out to our esteemed community to ask: how do you surf these fast and noisy waters that are social media? How do you find signal amongst noise? Do you have any successes to share? How about learning opportunities?

Photo credit: prosto photo