About once a week, I get invites to be friends with people on Facebook. Some of them I take up – mostly, at this point, they come from people I know. A number do come from people I’ve either forgotten, sadly, or people who have decided to engage me – and please, by all means, engage me! – but it’s not always done right.
Not everyone who reads my blog comments, much as I wish they would. It’s a great way to introduce yourself, I refuse to use nofollow on my links so you get some free Google-juice, and I absolutely do reply. However, because not everyone comments, their other efforts connecting with me might be a little hamprered by a lack of introduction. There are really easy ways to get around this; let me view your profile, find me on Twitter, or send a message with the invite explaining your reasons for adding me. Logical, right?
Ovr the last few weeks, I’ve hd half a dozen people try to add me to Facebook – if you’re reading, I’m sorry, but I had to hit the ignore button for two simple reasons: I have no idea who you are, and your profiles are set to friends only. This is important, because if I can’t find out who you are (and I’m not wasting my time in Google playing with your name because hands-on privacy trumps public-facing information) then I don’t feel like I have any means, reason, or motivation to connect with you.
I want to connect with people. I hate hitting the ignore button, but spending all my time recently removing followings from Twitter because of the unironic use of “MLM” and slap-dash flooding of messages, so anonymous, uninforming invitations are just as annoying – recently, at least – as constant invites from my existing friends to play games on Facebook.
As long as you actually want me to converse with you, and you’re not trying to buff up your numbers, I’ll follow you. I’m a bit loose like that. But that’s not the key point; getting anyone to connect with you isn’t enough, it has to provide some utility to both of us.
I’m just learning about how effective social proofing is. Scratching the surface is enough to understand that there’s huge power in having connections, in knowing the right people – and trust me, if you’re reading this, you’re the right people. Businesses are learning, too, that people who have social proof can be so much more valuable than a trained drone with a degree. There are a lot of networks like LinkedIn, Brazen Careerist, and others which bank entirely on this concept – and they’re winning.
If you do it right, you can use Facebook and Twitter to win, too. But that’s a big if.
There’s no manual for Twitter, because it’s so heavily democratised, that it’s impossible to tell anyone they’re doing it wrong. It’s like telling someone with a Swiss army knife that using the saw to cut their steak is wrong – it’s not, and it shows your ignorance in the saying so. There may be no wrong use of the service, but there are failing methods by which to communicate and make that first impression.
Making the wrong joke at the wrong time is a good example of this. I know I’m guilty of it, and others have said the same. But how we react to these instances is just as telling of us no matter which side of the joke we’re on. When I make bad jokes that make people snark at me, I stop following them. Mark Dykeman recently wrote a great post about how he chose to hold his tongue – good on him for doing so. Esteban Contreras (@socialnerdia) recently direct-messaged me when he didn’t get a joke I made – another totally awesome reaction. Getting past the hiccup is more important than the hiccup itself.
Where it falls apart is people not being mindful of the effect their actions will have on their followings. The author who sniped at me isn’t going to see me reviewing his book any time soon. I made the bad joke, but he did the yelling. The people who invited me to connect on Facebook, but left me no avenue by which to do so (one had even blocked messages from non-friends, double no-no) are also losing this game.
You may not be able to do Twitter wrong. But, as a wise android once said, it’s entirely possible to commit no errors and still lose. It’s all well and good to be aware of the social contract, social media’s effects on business, and attempt to build your own living resume (I really like the CV better, Curriculum Vitae really sounds more fitting in today’s world) through our actions online. But unless you’re going to take a unified approach, make yourself available in a very thorough way, you’re going to find that the walls you create with your conscious sensibility hamper your ability to break out of the box.
Mostly because it’s one you built yourself into.
Photo by Hryck Owian.