The Power of Social Networks

04 Jul

A quick look at my social network on July 4, 2011. Via Mention Map.

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a discussion going on about the power of social networks and changes in marketing due to this power.  I got involved in the conversation when I read and commented on Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu‘s blog about “a different kind of Social Media – finding a language”.  The discussion continued with Ric Dragon‘s post about “The Power of Small Groups in Online Marketing“.  As the conversation continues, I thought I’d add some of my thoughts and experiences with this power.

Marketing isn’t just for marketers.

In the age of social media, everyone becomes a marketer.  Companies need to realize that their employees are on Facebook and Twitter and are leaving impressions of their brand, however positive they may be.  I think some form of social media marketing training and standards will be important for all, even it it’s as simple as ensuring that everyone understands your vision.  It is a balancing act for organizations as they need to allow employees to be themselves and honest, while protecting their brand.

Traditional marketing needs to adapt.

I’m not a marketer and won’t pretend to be an expert, but I know how I make decisions on what company I want to do business with.  I rely on the referrals of “real” people.  I think a lot of others do as well, if the popularity and growth of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are any indication.  People can also ask hundreds (or thousands) of friends or followers on FB or Twitter for real-time recommendations before they buy.  Marketers need to find a way to interact in a “real”, genuine way with potential clients online.  Companies like Best Buy and Zappos, who allow their employees to blog and answer customer questions online may have some great best practices to follow.

Quality is more important than Quantity.

A lot of people seem consumed by getting more followers or more hits to their blog.  If there’s not value in the numbers, though, they’re only numbers.  What I mean is it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they aren’t adding value to your purpose or you to theirs.  It doesn’t matter how many people click to your blog if they aren’t reading it, engaging or remembering it.  I have found in my brief time in social media that the most value I get is from engaging in conversations with others – not the masses, but a few intelligent people who challenge my thinking with different views or agree and add to my own thoughts.  This engagement with others is where the rubber really hits the road with social media.  And it’s also why corporate blogs written without an opportunity for genuine 2-way communication may do more harm than good.

A small network of the right people can make a big difference.

In his book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the “Law of the Few”. He says “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”  There are three types of “socially gifted” people Gladwell describes: Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople.  In my short time blogging and being actively engaged in Twitter, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet amazing people with these gifts.

Connectors are the people who seem to know everyone. They have a knack for making friends and acquaintances, and they are especially gifted at bringing people together.  Mavens.  These are the “information specialists”.  They have and continue to gain vast knowledge and they share it with others.  Finally, Salesmen are persuaders.  Something about how they say things makes you want to agree with them.

A few of the Socially Gifted people I’ve met on Twitter:

Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu encompasses all of these traits.  He is happy to introduce people with like interests, he’s a brilliant social media expert who’s happy to share insights and knowledge, and his thought-provoking blog not only forces you to think, but makes you want to agree with him.

Josepf Haslam is a social media maven.  He knows SEO and how to use it strategically to drive the right traffic to your blog.  And the best part is he’s open to teaching you how to do it.  As I write this, his recent tweaks to Peggy Fitzpatrick‘s (an amazing Connector, by the way) blog are likely driving more traffic to her site.

Finally, a big shout out to Connector-extraordinaire Michele Price.  I’ve personally seen the impact this powerful communicator has.  While I’ve been blogging for several months now, I was averaging 15-25 hits on my blog per day.  One day in June, Michele tweeted that she was looking for a new blog to read, and I sent her a post I had just written, about how to deal with people you don’t like.  Michele read the post, commented on it, and tweeted it to her followers.  That day, I had almost a hundred hits on my blog, and several comments. (This may not be a lot to you mega-bloggers, but for me it felt like a tipping point!).  Not only does Michele have a large network, her opinion is trusted, so they agreed when she said my post was worth reading.

Wondering if you’re a connector?  Take Gladwell’s quick test here.

I am still learning a ton about social networking, and enjoying the journey.  I anticipate changes and am excited about what opportunity they will bring for those who embrace and engage with their network.

What do you think about the power of social networks?


Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Social Media


Tags: , , , ,

15 responses to “The Power of Social Networks

  1. Michele Price

    July 4, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Thanks Pamela, I have said for years it is not just the numbers, it is not just the relationship, it is the ability to combine BOTH!. So glad to share your message.

    Thank you for the compliment, you are a delight to tweet with.

    • Hearts and Minds

      July 4, 2011 at 11:32 am

      Thanks so much for reading Michele – I truly appreciate your support, and am more inspired with every #speakchat and interaction with you!

  2. Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

    July 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Pam, I love that graphic of network you have there on the right side. Pretty cool stuff. And thank you for the very kind things you have to say, it has been a real pleasure getting to know you through Twitter (and now your blog). There is a kind of tug-o-war happening in social media right now as marketers seek to justifying their importance to bottom-dollar businesses, so the emphasis has been moving away from quality you are championing here and that we both experience in #usguys. The key to social media is that it is “social’. That doesn’t mean that a bunch of people just get to hang out, it means that we effect people in a deeper way, we affect them socially. We touch lives. A lot of people are starting to take the “watering hole” approach. Let’s find where all the animals are gathered to drink and hit them all at once. #usguys is abused like this too as scheduled tweets from people who should know better roll through. To use an ecological metaphor, we are just polluting our own waters with this approach. The idea is to keep the water pure, to keep it delicious, clean and drinkable. So that others share it. You bring a lot of that clear clean water everywhere you go. I’m happy we have met, and looking forward to more.


    • Hearts and Minds

      July 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      Kevin, Thanks for commenting – and for continuing to inspire visionary thinking. I love your vision of social media and touching lives through this new form of communication. I know my goal is to try to add value, learning, and quality (and some positivity) to my interactions on line. I look forward to continuing to get to know more about you and this media.

  3. Dave Reynolds

    July 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    The Greek word is “koinonia”. It has been translated myriad ways including “fellowship”, “communion”, “participation”, “share a common life” and “partnership”. I am not using Social Media for numbers or a combination of numbers and relationships. It can ONLY be about the relationships. Everything else will fall into place by focusing on the giving part of relationship building. I’d like to create a new twitter phrase “Followship”. Forgive me if it is not new, however it sums up how I feel about SM in general and #UsGuys specifically. Great read Pamela. Thank You.
    cc: @StephenCaggiano

    • Hearts and Minds

      July 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      Hi Dave,
      Followship and “koinonia” are great words for it! And I agree – I have found that I’m building relationships with the members of the #usguys tribe. Twitter used to be just a place for me to find information. It has grown into a place where I’m not only learning, but sharing and building relationships with people who I otherwise would never have gotten the opportunity to. People like you! It’s amazing. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  4. @Josepf

    July 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm


    thank you for the shout out in your post. It has been wonderful meeting you on the stream. Ric Dragon Brandie McCallum and I were continuing this conversation “live” yesterday. Now how to condense down to a blog post??? I guess the best way is to continue to comment on the various blogs until I recover from the weekend 🙂

    Whereas I agree in principle with Kevin, you, and Ric, there is the unavoidable fact of nuclear proliferation. Yes I’m talking Triberr. (did Kevin just hit his caps LOCK key again?) Actually I’m talking any automation. Another brilliant conversation later in the day w/Brandie on this subject who was highlighting the inability to get any meaningful statistics once automation has been involved. (among other comments)

    So question… Does anyone here really think 60,000 + people organically followed (name withdrawn to protect the innocent) or 191058 followed (name also withheld)??? The real problem is that despite the fact that we can all agree on Dunbar’s number, and the necessity for Social Media to be Personal Relationship Media? There are major algorithmic advantages to those with a large follower base. Especially as the Search Engines continue to embed Social Circles into searching. And certainly, Brands are yet a whole different story.

    Should Kevin escalate his follower base to be more relevant in Search? Does it matter instead that his “reach” is constrained by only following 1169 people (maybe 1168 after this post).

    The answer is, “it depends”. It depends on the end game or objectives. It depends on the Strategy, Goals, and Objectives of the individual, company or brand. There is not one right answer. We can also argue over approach. I agree that broadcasting not only sucks but is also a very counterproductive tactic. With that said, we are all involved in an #awesome (had to do that) Social Science Experiment. Let’s be scientists, let’s debate, reason, set up experiments, and use data to validate or reformulate hypothesis. And above all, let’s keep the lines of communication open and flowing.

    best and warmest regards,

    • Hearts and Minds

      July 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Great point that what is relevant depends on the strategy of the individual/company/brand. For me, social media is a place to learn, share info, inspire and inspire others. I don’t have a company – I tweet and blog for the pure enjoyment of the conversation and relationships I’m building. However, should I finally take the plunge into entrepreneurship, I will likely need to build my follower base and drive more people to my site, and perhaps tools like Triberr and Klout will become more important…
      Thanks for commenting and for being such a wealth of knowledge!

  5. Peggy Fitzpatrick

    July 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Hello Pam!
    First love your blog design! So fresh and easy to read.
    I especially love this: “A small network of the right people can make a big difference.” My small group of friends that I talk to everyday is the heart and soul of my Twitter experience.

    I look forward to more of your posts Pam!
    Best wishes,

  6. jacquikimmel

    July 5, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I love your straight-forward approach here, Pam. Using Mention Map was also an appropriate way of backing up your third point of emphasis: ‘Quality is more important than Quantity’ because with it, we are each able to get a clear illustration of both (the size of our networks and the strength of the connections we share). While I agree with the thoughts that others have offered here regarding different approaches being used according to different objectives, it becomes glaringly obvious to me when I take a look at my own Mention Map, that although I follow and am followed by in the region of eleven-hundred people, there are really only a few with whom I have quality interaction. I have to wonder though, whether having the algorithmic advantage in search (through a much larger follower base) would really give me a vastly competitive edge in terms of actual awareness, actual reach and actual sales compared to a smaller, ‘hand-crafted’ base of followers that I know well and interact with regularly who propagate my message and promote my success because of the nature of our relationship? Social Media is still in its infancy though, and I think Josepf offers good advice when he encourages us to experiment and to keep the lines of communication open by sharing and comparing our findings. Pleased to be sharing in these conversations. 🙂

    • Hearts and Minds

      July 5, 2011 at 9:02 am

      Jacqui, I agree with you – the Mention Map is a really interesting look at the network you are actually interacting with. As for the numbers, it is a bit of a conundrum… there’s no doubt that you should have a competitive edge if you’re reaching a much larger base of followers. I find that I personally mainly look to my group of “quality interactors” for further interaction and reading their blogs etc, and I start to “weed out” the others as noise. I think I will need to build the number of people I actually interact with in order to extend my true reach. If I were in business for myself, I would probably try to do that strategically, selecting people with great reach…but I’m not sure that tools like Klout help us to strategically select the right people.
      Social Media is such an amazing medium and I’m loving experimenting and meeting people. And I’m so honoured to have you in my circle of quality influencers and interactors!
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  7. jacquikimmel

    July 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Pam, the feeling is mutual. It’s always a privilege to get to know people like you and many of the other #usguys who are quality influencers and interacters, as you say. As for tools like Klout (or similar) helping us to make these type of connections, I share your doubt. I feel that social media, in a sense, should epitomize ‘good old-fashioned word-of-mouth’ marketing (if/when used correctly), simply in a digital format. When taking the old-fashioned aspect into account though, there are no short-cuts. No instant coffee. We will get better results if we take the time to ‘hand-pick’ the people in our different social circles and as such, I believe, we will enjoy the joint benefits.

  8. Karen Sharp

    July 5, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Good points in both the original blog post and in the comment stream, thank you Pamela for continuing the contributions to this conversation.

    I think there is a a substantive, fellowship-based, legitimate way to hink about having follow and follower lists above, and maybe well above, Dunbar’s number. Depending on how intimate, authentic and human our social media style, there can easly be many people who may gladly and gratefully follow us, taking in what we put out, in a way that can genuinely enhance thir life. Perhaps as many as 90% of our followers may be silent, but still consider us a valued part of their life. There are people I follow who are in that vategory, and there are people who follow me, who are in that category.

    In this regard I agree with Jacqui, and for me too the group of people I have regular quality interactions with is much smaller than my overall number. I think that’s fine, actually. Outside my regular interlocutors I also have a group of people with whom I interact irregularly but still authentically. It is almost always the emotionally-salient things that pulls me to respond to them or them to respond to me, but I don’t share the daily details of life with them. Again I think that’s fine.

    There’s a limitation to the applicability of Dunbar’s number to modern life, which can be seen more clearly when we look to offline social experience. There are plenty of marginal people I know IRL, who are not a part of my inner circle, and therefore perhaps don’t take up a Dunbar slot. Some of the co-workers at my dayjob. Acquaintences from social contexts I regularly participate in. Friends of my spouse / spouses of my friends. Regular vendors I have a personal relationship with (I have cultivated somewhat of a small-town enclave for some things, especially food. I buy produce from a local farm through a CSA, and I buy raw milk from another local farm, and have bought from both of of those vendors regularly for years).

    These are all people who aren’t my intimates, but if something emotionally-salient happened in their life, such as a birth or a death, I would want to know, and I may very well step in to respond with celebration, condolence, and help. On the other hand, in a regular day-by-day context I don’t really think about them at all. There is no Dunbaresque cognitive or emotional load, to their presence in my life..

    Similarly, in my online life, most of those I follow and/or who follow me, fall into that category. I don’t think that dilutes the quality of my social media contribution, I don’t think that’s a Triberr-like example of information-inflation, or devaluation of my message. On the other hand, I don’t promote heavily to them, nor do they promote heavily to me, which would change the dynamic. And my social media style is highly personal, as is the style for many of the people I silently follow, which also creates a specific dynamic. It means there’s a sociality, an intimacy to the impact, even if it’s not personal. I still think that can be fellowship-based, authentically-human social media, and may even carry well into the thousands of followers without causing much dilution at all. It may depend very highly on the specific style of the messenger, but social media isn’t just social, it’s also media. Meaning it may not all be intimate conversation. Some of it may be using this particular platform to carry a general media message. But with a careful, responsible, human attention to the quality of the message, I think this keeps everything we might want in authentic, fellowship-based social media.

    • Hearts and Minds

      July 5, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      Interesting correlation to real life Karen – great points. I do worry that as my twitter network grows it will become more difficult to pay attention to the quality messages and the authentic relationships I feel like I’m building. I’m not sure what the right answer is about number of followers/following or how to share what messages. But I am certainly enjoying learning, meeting people, and seeing where this takes us all! Thanks so much for adding such thought-provoking points!


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