Like it or not, the Facebook redefined some core terminology regarding the basics of human relationships. The Twitter took it one step further- redefining the actual dialogue structure and the sheer number of conversations a person can conduct in a day.
- Step back and process that for a second- the fundamental methods in which we define and interact with people throughout our day have undergone a metamorphosis brought about by a handful of genius Gen Y & X’ers, who- as The Social Network points out- might not be all that capable of quality relationships in the real world.
Real offline relationships still lie at the core of our society and the irreplaceable values of face to face interaction and true in-person conversations will never die. But, in today’s world, it’s possible to take the conversation online and connect with people who you would not have interacted with 6 years ago- due in main part to geographic restrictions.
As my time online increases and I continue to make meaningful connections using social networks, I have to take a step back and look at the methods in which this online conversation occur and how to build a network that truly reflects who I am- in the “offline world”.
The Internets, at least for me, serve the purpose of helping me build and promote my passion skills- my photography and writing. If I had to categorize my online time, 85% of it is professional and the remaining time is spent catching up with my offline friends through online communications. And, of course, grabbing the occasional episode of Greys on Hulu, should my Thursday evening have an unavoidable appointment.
My journey through social media has reflected this as well- my online community surfaced around my professional interests- photography, visual communications, writing and biz dev (I’m going to replace the term entrepreneurship with biz dev- business development b/c for the life of me I can not spell entrepreneurship- ever). My networks are filled with people who have an interest in any of these areas.
I try to keep the work/play balance to that ratio. For if I begin to have my play time online, then my day would be spent completely in the online world- which can’t be healthy. Unless you’re Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
Building a Network
The other day I broke 500 followers on the Twitter. Woo-hoo! I felt rather special. As I proudly tweeted my meager accomplishment a conversation ensued around building a network. A fellow blogger who I communicate with rather regularly made the comment that he bet my number came about organically. And well, it did.
But I’d never really thought too much about that. He mentioned that he has used an auto follower to generate followers in the beginning of his Twitter building and wished he hadn’t done so. I’d heard of such tools, but never used them. In my beginning growth days, I would use the search twitter option and find people with similar interests and if they were posting interesting comments, I’d follow. But after my growth started on its own, I stopped doing this.
So, my method for organic growth is rather simple. When someone follows me, a notification pops up in my email along with their avatar. If they have a human face or an interesting logo, I click on their link and visit their page. The next part is key- I see what they are saying! I look for a balance of RTs, link posting with relevant copy and I see if they are having actual conversations with people.
If a happy balance of all three exists- then I follow back. If I stumble upon someone’s online content that kicks ass or is powerfully relevant- and their Twitter icon is on their page- I follow them as well.
Simple. Natural. Organic.
Interacting with your network is HUGE! That’s the point, right?
But, there are ways to do this and ways to get your ass un-followed. I really don’t un-follow people unless they are spammy, slimy or just incessantly posting things that I don’t interact with. I try not to follow such types in the first place- hence the organic growth thing.
I lurked- for over a year- on Twitter before I dove in. And then, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or why it mattered. I opened my Twitter account when it first came on the scene- and it sat dormant for a while. This winter I fired it up when I launched the Storyteller- just seemed logical. But I still didn’t use it right, I posted quotes, blog articles and a few RTs, but that was it. And the actions were not a regular occurrence.
This summer I dove in headfirst. I found people who were posting interesting questions and I answered. I retweeted articles I felt could benefit others. On occasion, I would just send a shout out to the person if I just spent an hour watching their keynote speech online or spent all evening with their podcasts.
I gave feedback on things that really had an impact on me and my biz perspective. And a few of these shout outs gave interesting replies. Conversations ensued and now we interact regularly. In fact, I’ll be crossing paths with my online network in person this winter as I go on my western Walkabout.
That’s the power of the Twitter. That’s why this shit really matters. You’re building real relationships with real people using an online platform.
And as my blog and my network grows, people are reaching out to me in conversation and I just couldn’t be any happier about it! I love getting real feedback from people about my work and then I am able to engage with their work as well. Which makes it all worthwhile.
So, to recap on this rambly Twitter article.
- Organic growth on the Twitter can be the most rewarding because you are engaging in real conversations with real people. Reflecting your offline interactions.
- Choose your follows with a little bit of care. You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you. If they look slimy or spammy don’t open the channels of communication. If some creepy guy driving a chester-molester van slinks over to me in a parking lot and tries to strike up a conversation- I’m gonna politely walk away. Same thing goes for the online world.
- Don’t just look at the number of followers the person has- we all started off with one follower. But if they follow a gazillion people and don’t tweet anything, beware. Or if they are following a gazillion people and none are following them back- yet they are Tweeting their ass off- well, I smell a little spam in the air.
- Don’t use auto-finders and auto responders on Twitter. Unless the sheer number of follows matters to your ego and your balls need that type of inflated support, just let your growth happen naturally. As Twitter has evolved, so have it’s users. So let your network find you and spend some time finding a network that reflects you, as a person. And if you keep building fabulous content, people will find you!
- Provide a valuable conversation. Just like in the real world, conduct your conversations as though you’re sharing a coffee with someone. Provide answers, ask questions, give information and provide a little moral support now and again. People respond to real people- so keep it real and keep it interesting. It’s not all about your blog posts or your marketing. It’s about everyone you interact with and their lives too.
- Check your Mentions regularly and thank people, give them feedback and strike up the conversation. When I first started really using the Twitter, I sent a quick thanks to GaryVee to thank him for posting all those keynotes- they were quite inspiring. And damn if he didn’t say a thanks back. That’s impressive for someone with almost a million Twitter followers. Same for Chris Guillebeau @ the AONC. He responds as well and I’m just amazed that these guys are able to devote their time in this manner to the people who engage with their content. It truly speaks to the transparency and authenticity that is transforming business in the online (and hopefully the offline) world.
So, go forth, sow the seeds of conversation and Tweet. Follow me on the Twitter, if you aren’t already, and let’s keep this party rollin’!
These images were taken during my time at UNC. I was auditing an environmental justice class and as part of our service learning component, the class traveled to a small locally owned farm in the mountains of NC to help them complete projects and prepare for the winter. Please visit Maverick Farms if you’re near Boone! It’s both beautiful and delicious!