Klout, Schmout. Connecting is the Real Clout.
Let me start by saying, I’m not against numbers, scores or analytical methods that give us an objective understanding of how far-reaching our brand’s impact is, be it our personal or professional brand.
Whew. Okay, now that I’ve stated that, here’s my real point today: The impact we make through social media can’t entirely be measured by numbers and scores. If you tweet, post, friend and follow people just to raise a number or better a score, you’re missing the point of social media. It’s not just about how powerful of an influencer you are. It’s about connecting with the person on the other side of the Facebook wall.
Connecting—isn’t that what makes it possible to move through successful projects or campaigns? When I read a thought or an article from a friend in a social network, it draws me into to their world. I understand them better and it gives me insight into how they think. This is the power of social media. It gives us a way to express our thoughts, ideas and values and learn about others’. When you pour out the right amount of energy and love into your online connections, you will find the same comes back to you from people you admire. Call it karma or whatever, but you can’t really place a number on the impact you make.
So the next time you look at your social score and think you haven’t “made it” yet, don’t sell yourself short. Here’s the real clout—impact and connection. And there’s no score that can tell the whole story of either of those very effectively.
Yes, I think we all need to measure and operate with some level of understanding about how influential our brand is. But a number doesn’t tell the whole story. You can’t measure the amount of energy and thought you put into 140 characters. We can only measure action and reaction. And that isn’t even perfect. Yet.
A lot of us use social media because we want to be influencers, which is not a bad thing—but if you’re always trying to “sell” or promote your brand, you miss opportunities to really connect. There’s a difference. Here are five ways I try to legitimately connect with people and open up a two-way street of communication.
1) I curate from my heart. I read what interests me and I share my thoughts based on what I’m currently mulling over, not just what the world wants to hear about. In other words, I try hard to be authentic. The Bryan you see on Twitter is the same one you’d meet in person—only I typically speak in more than 140-character sentences. Authenticity is key to connecting.
2) I develop rapport with people. And this is gained over time in any relationship, whether online or not—you can’t expect to be socially connected in a day. Put energy into getting to know the people you want to know, and it’ll happen over time. But it takes time and consistent effort.
3) I’m consistent. A week of tweeting is not enough. Like anything else, people come to expect something of you and your brand. If you start then stop, don’t be surprised if you get, “Hey, where’d you go?” emails. Or if people become less interested and start to drop off. Whatever you do, stay with it. Yes, it’s ok to go on vacation and take a break. But the commitment has to be there initially for it to take off.
4) I spend time on other walls. I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about my influence in social media, but I will tell you this—I don’t want it to be all about ME. I find people fascinating, and I learn so much from what other people post, tweet and share. You can spend all the time you want sharing your own stuff. But what’s the fun in that if you aren’t enjoying what others are sharing? Connecting is all about conversation and developing a two-way street. Sometimes I need to just shut up and listen.
5) I empathize. Empathy can sound like kind of a girly word, but it’s a very human quality and one we should all pay more attention to. It’s basically the ability to identify with someone else’s feelings and experiences. It gets you outside of yourself and into another’s world. Our social media experiences would all be better if we empathized with one another. Being empathetic (as Brian Solis wrote so eloquently in a recent blog) is what makes it all a real online experience.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Numbers and scores are important, but don’t forget the very human side of social media. Connecting with people authentically, getting to know them (not just influence them) is crucial to your online success, and ultimately, to increasing your brand’s impact. Consumers don’t do business with companies and corporations. They support and interact with the people they know and trust.