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Growing Your Social Network

As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  This has long been held as one of the greatest maxims of success.  This understanding formed the basis of the cocktail parties and three-martini lunches of yesteryear and it is the driving concept behind online networking today.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are or how solid your business is, there is only so far that your own ingenuity, inventiveness, and innovativeness can take you on your own.  For your business to realize its full potential, you have to be able to reach and influence your customers and, even more importantly, you have to be able to connect to people who can open the right door and provide you with the right opportunities to really make a name for yourself and your business.  Online social networking sites makes this possible like never before.

Thanks to the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, LindedIn and Twitter, it is possible to expand your social network, not just across your industry but across the globe.   These sites allow you to stay connected to the people who already influence your success while simultaneously giving you access to their social networks as well.  Unlike the days of old, you can expand your social network rapidly and almost indefinitely without forking over membership fees to a country club or damaging your liver.

There are several ways that you can achieve this kind of rapid network growth.  There are paid services (and even some inferior free ones) that can generate thousands of followers per month for your Twitter account.  Then there is the shotgun approach of simply adding everyone you come across in the hopes that they will follow decorum and follow you back.   There are even a number of tools designed to assist in collecting active users on many of the most popular social networks.

There certainly is something to be said for being able to quickly expand your social network online by mass adding new contacts.  You get your name out there and, if nothing else, having a thousand people following your Twitter account just looks impressive.  But is this kind of social network growth the best use of social networking?

On a superficial level, there is a large degree of social proof that goes along with having a massive network.  Think of it like the being the popular kid at school.  People are more inclined to take you a little more seriously for no other reason than herd mentality.  However, to really benefit from social networking you need quality connections, not cattle.

Since we have focused mostly on Twitter so far, let’s continue on that same line of thinking.  Using directory services you can connect to “twibes” (Twitter interest groups).  Listing your handle on directories helps users that are actually interested in your business, or at least your general field, find you.  You can also access tweets in real-time that concern specific topics relevant to your business using the list feature and add users through these tweets (tweeters and followers).

However, just as with your website, there is simply no substitute for quality.  If you want quality contacts then give them quality content.  Fresh, original, relevant content not only grabs attention from the users you want to reach, but it is the type of content that gets retweeted to a wider audience of important contacts.  It goes without saying that this is vastly preferable to reaching thousands of users who really don’t care about you, your business and what you have to say.