There’s pretty much no better place to find the biggest misunderstandings in social media than in lists of the most important people in social media. Many of the usual suspects listed don’t interact with people at all. They don’t know how to build relationships or connect with people on an individual level. They use their pseudo celebrity status to broadcast, affirming their lack of knowledge of how social media actually works.
Often the methodology for making lists of the best people in marketing or the most engaged, or most important people on social is based on vanity numbers, like followers, likes and shares. Then, in the spirit of objectivity, these numbers are pumped into spreadsheets and who the most important people are is determined. The people who say the most meaningful things, who are most influential, are chosen without human intervention. Wow. These vanity metrics are meaningless, though not as bad as reach. Don’t even get started on reach. It’s as close to irrelevant as you can possibly get, certainly as it pertains to social networking, if not all media now.
Whoa… what was that? Did I just slip from using the term social media to using social networking? Yes, yes I did. The fact is, while marketers have decided to call social networks social media, the fact is, it’s not media. Media is one directional and broadcast. TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Social media might feel that way. I get that. It’s tempting to aggregate a gigantic following, and then feel like you own those followers. Like they’re all waiting for your latest message. But that’s not how it works. And we all know that, if we think about it.
It’s About the Messaging!
Folks like Joel Renner have been trying to explain to marketers for a long time why they don’t get Snapchat. They’re focusing all their energies on Stories, while most heavy users of it are using it for messaging. Wechat has been working this way since Snapchat was a glimmer in its creators eyes. You can’t “post” to Wechat. You send it. To a group. Of people you are connected to. It’s not made for broadcasting to a group of strangers who might find you because you’re so cool.
Now Instagram, Facebook and Facebook Messenger have added stories, but no one seems to know what to do with them. Who is going to look at these stories, and for what purpose?
Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn may feel different. And for some celebrity influencers, it is. I follow National Geographic on LinkedIn, despite them not giving me the time of day in terms of personal interaction. Some people follow celebrities to know what they’re doing, or feeds from news organizations. But that’s not how social networks on the whole work. Social is a collection of communities. I frankly think that among it’s many errors LinkedIn confusing influence with celebrity is a big one. People don’t listen to random people with big followings. They listen to people who listen and help who are parts of communities that focus on particular things like subject matter, locations, etc.
Try to Have Fewer Connections
LinkedIn used to have functional groups, before most became places to opt in to be added to a hard sell list and your data to be sold as a lead. Back then I was very active on LinkedIn, and the number of people I was connected to grew significantly. They changed a lot over time. This year I decided to get back into using LinkedIn, and I got rid of over 2,000 connections. Why?!?!?! Don’t you want to be super well connected? Well, funny thing. Super well connected means making deep connections. Having thousands of connections who don’t know you from a whole in the wall makes you a phone book maker. Phone books now typically take a direct route from your front door to your recycle bin. Useless.
Public Facebook Becomes a Battlefield
Facebook started to fall apart a couple of years ago, though most of us didn’t know it until we took a second look during the latest US presidential election and realized all we were doing was fighting with people who would never change their minds. My wife knew his was happening long before this, and told me everyone she knew was moving most of their activity to private groups. Public Facebook was noise and nonsense. Private groups were focused, purposeful. People got to know each other and respect each other.
Twitter’s Premature Obituary
Many think Twitter is on death’s doorstep. In it’s raw form, it is a horrible mess, filled with auto posted garbage. How are people who have something to say that’s worth listening use it? They either control who they follow very carefully, or rely on lists and notifications. You’ll see a lot of actual interaction in chats. Outside of those areas, even from people who do a great job interacting, you’ll see automated, scheduled, “curated” filler. And it’s ignored. People think they’re reaching millions. They are reaching no one.
The purpose of social networking is to strengthen your network by being social. You listen, you respond, share relevant information, joke, ask about things that matter to people. This strengthens your connection, and when you need something, you can ask. When you need to make a call, people who you’ve established a connection with will take your call.
Lists of Super Influential People Typically Miss the Point
Lists that celebrate people with a million mentions or shares, who got one tweet responses to their posts, are missing the entire point of social. There are people with hundreds of thousands of followers who are complete unknowns, even to most of the people following them. Following someone means nothing. Saying something that people click a star or thumbs up symbol about is nothing.
These lists talk about audiences. There are no audiences on social the way they’re thinking. Social is a party. You find conversations to participate in, and you potentially develop relationships. You never know who you’ll meet, who they’ll know, and what could come of it all. You don’t walk into a party and just start yelling to everyone and walk out. You’d look like an idiot. You don’t walk in and hand out 10 page articles you’ve written. You’d seem crazy. And yet that’s exactly what people are doing. There are people who are influenced by these numbers, sadly. And if your goal is to impress them, and show up on a list, then do what they do. But if you want people who know who you are, and care what you do and say, who will listen to you and advise you and possibly buy from you or hire you, then be social.