I want to make something clear from the outset: I am not any kind of social media maven. I don’t specialize in building brands through tweets crafted with the guile of Machiavelli and the sparse beauty of Hemingway. I like using a few social networking tools and sites (Google+, Twitter and this fairly humble blog) and find it really great that I am now quite friendly with a number of people I’ve only come to know through these very sites. How can you not be at least a little fascinated by finding people with common beliefs and interests whom you may never meet in your life?
I’ve also come to chuckle at those that, to me, are just getting the social networking all wrong, at least in terms of engagement. It seems the coin of the realm to many who look to climb to the top of social heap is purely numbers. More friends or Likes on Facebook. In more circles on Google+. The uber-coveted number of Followers on Twitter.
But so freaking what?
Somehow why engagement became important is suddenly lost. It’s more like the rules of engagement in a military firefight than in seeking to make connections with other people.
I recently took it upon myself to follow the advice of Chris Brogan and started unfollowing on Twitter or unliking on Facebook any person, business, group, etc. that only engaged in monologues vs. dialogues.
It was profoundly liberating. Less noise. Less fluff. Less people who only follow me if I follow them back. More people I actually want to interact with.
I don’t know how or where it happened, but somewhere along the way these amazing tools that enable people to connect with each other around the world to exchange ideas, make new friends, debate interesting topics or just learn something became twisted into a numerical popularity contest. I am guessing that many were looking to cash in on the social networking phenomenon and figured “More people following = more money!”
Except for one small problem… if you have nothing interesting to say, who cares?
I feel like it’s a new kind of Zen koan: If someone tweets to 43,743 followers but none of them read it, did it really happen?
It gets to a rule I find more solid every day: go for the authentic every time and you will come out on the other side richer for it.