My Social Networking Mistake

by Brian Carter March 3rd, 2009 

Engagement is a common buzzword in social networking. Ironically, it's easy to neglect.

You're engaging as many people as possible in really fun, interesting, stimulating ways, right? ;-)

To persistently engage, you must:

  • Answer all replies
  • Thank people for RTs
  • Answer all DM's

When you respond, do it:

  • Quickly
  • Personally
  • Creatively

Don't Make The Social Networking Mistake I Made

Let me whine for a second. I now have 16k Twitter followers. And here's what happens when I tweet:

  1. I tweet, awesome.
  2. I'm watching and I might get 25 replies, or 10 retweets in 30 seconds.
  3. Whoa. I mean, I had time to tweet, but do I have time to respond to every reply?

I know: wah.

The mistake I made was I got egotistical and busy and I left the real Twitter party. I saw people replying to me and read them but didn't respond to most of it.

Unfortunately, people don't know that I read or enjoyed their tweet. They think I'm too busy or I don't care. That's bad networking on my part.

The Fall-Out From Disengaging

My followers engaged me less. People weren't responding to my tweets.

I thought, "What happened? Is something wrong with Twitter? Or was it something I said?"

I think it was because I had became too distant.

Serendipitously, a talented friend inspired me to finally listen to Gary Vaynerchuk. I watched all his keynote videos one afternoon. I discovered that Gary personally replies to his thousands of emails. Some think he's crazy to do so, but he says it means so much to them that he replied, and he gets business intelligence that way too.

If you're popular in social media/social networking and you care about your followers, you must talk to them. That takes a lot of time and energy. But you're building a lot of relationships. And if you don't like engaging, you shouldn't be social networking.

It'll stretch you. Or you'll realize you need a smaller network. Or your influence, despite your follower count, will shrink.

How To Persistently Engage

  • You may get overwhelmed but do as much replying as you can. Read and reply to all your replies.
  • Follow back everybody that engages you. If someone looks unfamiliar, go to their page and follow them. You get to know them more that way- I might do that several times with a new person until I remember them.
  • Don't autofollow because it's lazy and impersonal and you don't want to follow all those bots that are following people.

I started doing this and people started responding more. Ohhhh, surprise! When you engage, people engage back!

That's how you build and maintain the social capital that is the power of your network.

Warmth and Social Capital

Just like email, if you don't email your list for too long, the list goes cold and unresponsive. When you finally do email them, they don't remember you and you end up with spam reports. In the same way, you need to keep your network warm and strong with persistent engagement.

The real size of your effective network is not sheer follower count. It's a combination of:

  • Reach
  • Responsiveness
  • Perceived Authority

The Results Of Persistent Engagement

The benefits are, the more your list is engaged with you:

  • More people see your conversations and reply to you,
  • More people retweet you,
  • More people follow you, and
  • More opportunities come from these people.

Social Networking People are People Too

Don't forget just because it's digital, just because you're at your computer instead of standing face to face, social networking is still real people, real networking, real relationships, and real opportunities.

Talk to them.

(Ed.: related reading: Theres More To Life Than Links & Sex and What is Most Important to Your Personal Brand? Fans or Financial Stability?)

Brian Carter

CEO of FanReach, Brian Carter has been an Internet Marketer, speaker, and social media trainer since 1999. Brian has been quoted and profiled by Information Week, US News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur Magazine. He is the author of the book How To Get More Facebook fans. He is both an adwords consultant and a facebook consultant. Check out his his free Facebook Marketing 101 course, and the full FanReach Facebook Marketing and Advertising course.

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27 Responses to “My Social Networking Mistake”

  1. CJ Romberger says:

    This is a great video. You make some great points.

    You're right, too – people do remember and stop responding. You put out a FUNNY video awhile back – you dancing – do I remember this right?

    Anyhow, I tweeted you several times about it. Didn't hear back. Now? I'm permanently damaged from you blowing me off. I'm holding a grudge to go with it, too, and it's heavy!

    Okay, not really; I'm lying about the damage and the grudge.

    But see how I remember this? You're making a great point here, and I appreciate that you took the time to make the video so others can learn from you.

    I totally get that it could be a MASSIVE challenge when you get the #s you have, too.

  2. Graziella says:

    Excellent post, really. You made some really good, honest points and I think that staying focused is a key player here. Thanks for the great info!

  3. Soon professional types will have to start employing personal internet assistants to ensure that the rules of engagement gets followed. Personally responding to every single tweet and chirp will just prove too much for most execs, period.

  4. Michael Long says:

    You bring up a good issue Brian. So, I guess the question boils down to quality versus quantity. How you manage the time constraints of a following effectively would prove important if you want to keep a half-way-decent reputation. I see things trending towards a more focused quality approach. Targeting in on a specific audience as opposed to gaining a massive following seems to be the future.

    I like the first comment on "internet assistants." You may be on to something good with that idea!

  5. Zaslony says:

    Yeah you can't just ignore people. If my replys would get ignored I'd stopped replying and soon after reading. It's not like I can't find anything else interesting on the tubes. It's important to respect your readers or they won't respect you.

  6. Trying to find the balance of attention and responsiveness to Twitter is difficult. As you find that balance though, like Brian experienced, you'll realize an easier time of staying in touch with people.

  7. i always take care when i start do anything with social network because i think that it is the person view for example if i have a stupid tweet this mean I'm not good in this social network and most who follow me will leave me , so i should be careful when i tweet .

    thanks and i think i learned something from you and your mistakes , hope we don't fall on it again .

  8. For me,Social networks is another shape of 'Cyber farming"what all a farmer shall do,that what "good blogger what should do so that they can harvest an "advertising income at the end of the month.More active response from writer to commentator or to follower will make your influence more visible ,and that what make given more trust and once you go advance to "blogging with longtail"Google will personally help blogger cause with that "blogger help "Google

  9. Ruud Hein says:

    Really good post Brian. Straight up, we would have said back in the day :)

    What was your motivation for building a 16K following vs. scaling it down?

  10. Leo says:

    I think that there is more to it than simply engagement on your end. I think that you can grow your followers to the point where managing them can become a full time job (as in your case where you probably spend the majority of your time on twitter trying to keep up).

    Engagement is also a 2-way street. I have noticed recently that a lot of those on twitter are more interested in "talking to themselves" than actually communicating back and forth with an actual audience (maybe they do…but it appears that they could really care less). There is a lot of me, me, me in the twitter world.

    Personally, I am not totally sold on twitter being the greatest tool for social communication on the net. Micro managing your relationships can be a pain in the you know what.

    You bring up some very valid points though.

    Reach, responsiveness, and perceived authority are very important in communicating…this is in regards to any platform..not just twitter though.

  11. got this post via twitter. thanks…makes a lot of sense. I have to say I'm glad I'm following you. I have learned a lot from your tweets.

  12. sherisaid says:

    I agree, but I don't think you need to respond to EVERYthing. I don't expect a thank you for RTs and not even a response to every response. I have a relatively measly 600+ followers, and it's already hard to reply to everything. But those that are so self-important that they respond to no one, or only to a very select group of equally self-important people, turn me off. I respond to a lot of different people…people with 2 followers…and people with 200K. If they are interesting, I tweetchat for as long as I have time…and do my level best to be interesting back.

  13. Carol Ross says:

    Great post, Brian. Appreciated you shining the light on your mistake so that others can learn from it. Agree that number of followers is not as important as the relationship and the community that you are creating with them.

  14. Metaspring says:

    You have 16k Twitter followers? Gosh that would feel like a lot of pressure to me!

  15. Brian, your message is important, but also hard to follow. It takes time, energy, desire. It's awesome that you can set a good example for all of us growing into this space so we take the time it takes to engage properly. It not only benefits us as Tweeters, but as people. I think your message goes far beyond Twitter, it should be applied to email, phone, in-person interactions, etc. If we did, not only would communications be better, but the world would be a nicer place.

  16. SEO Company says:

    Grate post, i like posting on twitter, but i still try to make followers. I think it was not your mistake you just have big number of followers :)

  17. Ah Brian….

    It's kinda like the celebrity syndrome where a mega-star will complain about being photographed. Then they'll complain about not being photographed. Then they'll complain about autograph hunters. Then they'll complain about lack of autographs.

    It's a funny situation to be in. But you're completely right – if you're putting yourself "out there" then it doesn't hurt to be sociable. It can be tough and take time, but the rewards to both sides are more than worth it.

    Cheers, ears! :)

  18. Bloggeries says:

    Danny said it best

    "It’s kinda like the celebrity syndrome where a mega-star will complain about being photographed. Then they’ll complain about not being photographed. Then they’ll complain about autograph hunters. Then they’ll complain about lack of autographs."

    Just tweet however you feel like tweeting. Sometimes social sometimes broadcasting. There is no wrong or right way to do it.

  19. Utah SEO says:

    Good post Brian. And another buzzword to the table…"persistent engagement."

  20. Egipt says:

    Got this post via twitter. I will send to my friend. Greetings, Egipt.

  21. Tamal Anwar says:

    I use twitter and within the past few months I got social for this. I tweet a lot and love to interact with people. Guess it's the way twitter is meant to be!

  22. As new to Twitter I must say its an almost overwhelming task to follow even a small percentage of the Tweets coming your way. I follow approximately 50 people, and some of them make more than 50 Tweets a day.

    My strategy with Twitter has been to gain some inspiration in the field of social media, seo and online marketing. Most of the people I follow are in that field, and they use Twitter as a marketing or even sales platform.

    Most of my personal friends in Denmark are not on Twitter yet, so Twitter is not that personal for me yet. But this could change when more people join Twitter here.

  23. When Twitter first came out, I was not a big fan because I feared it would create "yet another arena to respond to people through." Don't get me wrong, I know it;s about people, but with all of the methods of contact, I think people can lose focus on actually getting work done and stress out about all of their connectedness to the online world.

    I guess it depends on the person, but I could not imaging replying to 1,000 emails or tweets per day would ultimately be productive – unless I had someone assisting me. I have recently heard the question asked about "high volume" Twitter users as to whether or not they are responding on their own or if they have staff members do it for them.

  24. Dieta says:

    Answering personaly is a VERY important thing. Nobody likes getting a standard generated response – it feels like talking with a bot.

  25. Brian, great post. Social networking certainly takes a lot of time and I think that it is important for people to ask why they are using it. Many people hear of using social networking to increase web traffic and then go headstrong into only to disappear just as quickly because it takes so much effort. I think social networking is for some but not all. Before spending the time, people need to ask, "Is the traffic benefit worth the time that I am putting in?" And, "is this good traffic for my purposes?"

  26. Yvonne Y says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. I started blogging this year and have so much to learn about engaging with the communities that interest me.

  27. Kian Ann says:

    Of course, customer engagement is one of the best ways to unseemily market your business – however, like you said, as the number grows, the task of replying all the DMs gets unmanagable.

    how do you deal with that?

    … and this is actually not something you can "outsource", because these people want you, no a "twitter DM replier" you tasked the job to.