Support-A-Thon: Evaluating Social Currency And Re-humanizing Online Experiences #supportathon

So, is anyone else tired of hearing all this junk about the “ROI of social media” and the “value of friendships”?

I know I am.  I think I may *SCREAM* if I hear “ROI” and “social media” in the same sentence again. #justsayin

It seems that too many folks are jumping on the social media bandwagon with only one thing on their mind: money.  Now, we all need to make a living and I know I certainly have mouths to feed (my own in particular – hey, I’m a growing boy) but are we focusing on money first when the relationships should be at the forefront of our thoughts?

Social Media Currency - Is money the only thing on your mind?

Source: NewMediator.com

These thoughts have been inspired by recent conversations with Jen Olney, Dave R. Gallant, Robert Dempsey, Karla Campos, Eugene Farber, and many other wonderful people.  While we don’t agree on every last detail, we all agree that there are too many issues with how folks approach social media.

I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet as we touch upon the following concepts:

  • Redefining social media currency, relationships, conversions, and what engagement really means.
  • Moving away from the robotic ways that have taken the warmth out of online interaction.
  • Focusing on helping others so that the stuff we want falls into place naturally.
  • Engaging in reciprocation that is more meaningful, authentic/sincere, and worthwhile for all.

The main thing I want to tackle here is the concept of reciprocation.  We all know that bloggers love to trade comments, shares, likes, and all that good stuff.  I am all for reciprocation but I wonder sometimes…

How authentic is the engagement and influence..  or is this mutual-sharing-festing mostly a mere courtesy?

I don’t get many comments on this blog nor do I on some of my others.  I’m fine with that.  I figure the folks that take the time out to leave a comment are my real fans, right?

Well, Dave Gallant made me challenge that thought some more.  I know from my site stats and reports (hey, the SEO in me eats this stuff up).  There are people that lurk about but then there are those that will share my content or discuss the topics offline or other places online.  They may not leave comments but they are engaging in their own ways.

So, now I’m going to breakdown some of the thoughts I’ve been wrestling for well over a week (and why this post is a bit late..  and I will owe you another this week)…

Deep Engagement

If you do enough consuming of personal development and business/marketing content, you may have heard about “engagement”. Thing is, few people are really clear about what that means, myself included.

Most will stop at connecting when they are supposedly engaging people.  I think true, deep engagement, is so much more than being connected.  Really, a greater degree of commitment needs to be evident as anyone can blindly “follow” or “friend” people back.  If you love it, you gotta put a ring on it!

Three Stones - Engagement Ring - JamesAllen.com

Source: JamesAllen.com

This visual aide actually works.  I mean, how often will you REALLY “put a ring on it” in life?  Rings cost money.  Relationships take time to build up to that level of commitment, to truly be “engaged”.  Of course, the type of social engagementwe’re speaking of here requires a different type of commitment (and perhaps not as much of an investment).

I think this chart here helps us start to understand engagement much better…

Types of Online Engagement

Online (social) engagement simplified.. Sorta.

…Okay, so I lied.  This only complicates matters more.  I won’t get into all the aspects of this diagram I disagree with but it does show just how many forms of engagement there are..  and yet there is so much more to social engagement at it’s peak.  Certainly, highly and deeply-engaged people do more than just add you as a friend or “fan” you.

Perhaps we focus too much on metrics and forget about people.  Who wants to hook up with a robot, let alone be engaged to one??

Again, I will beat this dead horse: move away from the numbers!  Focus on people.  Salespeople are not memorable, caring servants, inspiring thought leaders, and heroes are!  Would you like to be remarkable, memorable, or maybe even create a legacy?

I know I would.

I want to be engrained in the hearts and souls of those I make the effort to truly touch.  That means persistent, sincere activity beyond the initial “payback”.

CASH OUT:  When people go above and beyond to truly reach out to you, those are the folks you want to focus more on.  It can be a simple thing like connecting via a platform you did not explicitly share or leaving you a random message “just to say hello”.  This is the real “money left on the table” here.  Some folks are practically throwing social currency at us and we’re ignoring them.

KEEP THE CHANGE:  Do not put much value in the transactional stuff that can be gamed or does not translate into meaningful engagement.  Clicking some buttons and leaving comments is nice and certainly not to be dismissed but feel free to let others worry about these little things.  Do not let the numbers turn you into a robot.

Sincere Reciprocation

Offline, social currency comes in many flavors but, essentially, it’s the ‘ol “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality.  There’s nothing wrong with that but that behavior does not make people feel fully-vested in joint ventures, teamwork, collaboration, or whatever you want to call it.  Besides, do we want to measure the value in a relationship by transactions?  There is value in the currency of intangibles and good wishes, no?

The weird focus on trading favors and social currency does not stop offline.  Online, social currency is very similar to the silly stuff we see “IRL” so I ask myself…

Is this person reciprocating because they truly believe in my vision, cause, or mission..  Or is this merely a courtesy or patronizing act?

I mention that a lot because it’s true.  It’s why I’m sharing this in-depth article with you and considering serialization via other mediums, blogs included, of course.  All too often, we’re throwing favors out in the hopes of getting reciprocation.  sense of entitlement can lead to frustration simply because we all look at engagement differently (read the previous section).

 Reciprocation - Design With Intent

Source:  DanLockton.com

This postcard borrowed from Dan Lockton’s “Design With Intent” Wiki just confirms what I have feared: folks are sharing and caring almost out of obligation.  I don’t want that.  Of course, there is almost always a selfishness attached to even the most selfless acts and that’s fine.  I am more calling out folks that do stuff because they feel it is good PR or what-have-you.

CASH OUT:  Rather than helping and promoting others in hopes of getting the same in return, just show folks that you genuinely care and find them interesting..  Or don’t bother sending out false signals.  Yes, someone will notice but be honest with yourself by focusing on those that truly matter to you and stopping the favors you know you will not follow through with.  On the flip side, when you have folks that do the same for you, be sure to give whole-hearted thanks and, whenever possible, offer your help.  Simply let others know you are there for them and ask, “What can I do for you?”

KEEP THE CHANGE:  Link exchanges, comment runs, and other reciprocation parties are great but let’s move away from mere reciprocation towards something sincere.  Perhaps we have an issue with semantics here.  Instead of looking at reciprocation, perhaps we should look at love, warmth, and collaboration.  I’m a big fan of warm connections, which builds upon the concepts of lead nurturing, conversions, and relationship building - it’s all connected, folks!  As @MattGron and @RobSearch would say, it’s the difference between having a cold lead, a luke-warm return visitor, and a SUPER HARDCORE! FAN.

Social Influence Be Damned

Over at “The Practical Life” I discussed the numbers game and warm connections.  My call to action there was simple: we choose to focus more on numbers or people..  but the two do not play nice together if you get too obsessed on one side.  I rather focus more on people but, at some point, money has to be made, right?  I’ve been fortunate that the relationships I have forged have lead to natural sales opportunities but sometimes you just have to ask for the sale.

Social Influence - Getting inside your customer's mind! (By DesignDamage.com)

Source: DesignDamage.com

In any case, I say, “Social influence be damned!”  Scores and metrics like those we find in Google Analytics, Klout, and PeerIndex are useful but some folks go a bit overboard with this stuff.  They buy followers, spam, and do other shady things just to increase their numbers and seem more important than they really are, all the while forgetting why they are really in business.  Tsk tsk…

My Klout score has been on the rise and not because I am deliberately trying to game the system; instead, I am doing more of what I have done all my career to build relationships:

  • Show people that I care.
  • Share useful and fun content.
  • Select the most engaging, caring people to follow up (and have fun) with.

*clicks the candy-red button*

There, that was easy.

I wonder why some folks over-complicate social media.  Are they that desperate for money?  I’m guessing they are not projecting an image consistent with what they really are about.

CASH OUT:  When someone shows interest and/or appreciation, carve out some time for them.  It is always worth it.  At the very least, you may make a pal.  Good pals can turn into close friends, referral sources, brand advocates, avid fans, and life-long customers.  So, yes, there is value in building relationships.

KEEP THE CHANGE:  Don’t get caught up in this business of social influence scores and social media ROI - leave those scraps for the desperate and inauthentic folks!  To be fair, I place some value in those things but I am not heart-broken if the numbers do not align with the results that I am looking for (and quite pleased with, in spite of and not DUE to, silly numbers).

So, what do you think about all this social (media) craziness?

Call To Action:  If you heed these thoughts here, I know you will have a more fulfilled life in all facets.  It takes a lot of work but you’ll find yourself doing less of the thankless work.  Let’s rehumanize online experiences and business as a whole.  With that in mind, please take a moment out today to let people know you care.  Use and track the hashtag #youmattertome on Twitter.  Let’s re-humanize the online experience by bringing the “social” back to the social web, yes?

Related Links:

COMING SOON – message me, @Yogizilla, on Twitter if you have something related to share!

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12 thoughts on “Support-A-Thon: Evaluating Social Currency And Re-humanizing Online Experiences #supportathon

  1. You know exactly how I feel on all this Yomar. Everything you have shared resonates completely with me (hence our 4 hour long Skype conversation :P )

    There is another side as well. If you have too many deep relationships which you invest in, you can only offer so much to them.

    I use the reference of giving out portions of the pie. The more you give out, the smaller the portion. I’ll be the first to admit I AM the pie. (tasty apple pie that is :P ) I rather give out bigger pieces to fewer people than smaller pieces to more.

    I’m glad you wrote this post.

    • No kidding – good thing I was somewhat concise here, though I’ll likely revisit some of the concepts touched upon here!

      And, yes, I definitely know how you feel on all this. You were part of the inspiration. I’ve also spoken with other folks about the same topics. It all seems to be on everyone’s mind, though we may frame it differently.

      I’m with you on giving more to your core audience and closest colleagues. It would seem some of the so-called a-listers stop engaging people individually when they realize deep engagement is not sustainable on a wider scale. I’m reminded of Christian Hollingsworth’s piece titled “don’t forget the followers”.

      Realistically, we can’t thank everyone sincerely or in ways they may consider significant all the time.. But it does not hurt to try. The person you touch today may become your biggest ally tomorrow, after all.

      Apple pie.. Nom. Yes, nice healthy servings for those that take those extra steps with or for us. I appreciate the little things just because I know we all have tons of stuff pulling us in every direction (kids, meetings, lovers, TV, whatever it may be).

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. I put some extra work into it by sharing some links, photos, and supporting materials. I’ll be updating the related links too since there is lots of buzz about this stuff going about.

      Last but not least, I really enjoyed your article about engagement and how it does not require validation to be signifcant. Sometimes we may not notice that extra subscriber or person clicking a share button, but that does not mean their efforts are not appreciated.. Nor does it mean they were not compelled to do more with our content.

      If people are willing to share our stories, carry on our messages, and/or “tell a friend” (The Magical Power of Ten), I reckon that means we did something right. That said, the lurkers that don’t really plug into social media full-on yet keep coming back for more “aha” moments definitely matter too.

      It rocks that you were my first comment here, Dave, since I know you’re very passionate about creating a pervasive personal brand, forging a legacy, and raising awareness on business/marketing matters not often discussed. You’re the man, bro! #youmattertome

  2. Yomar,

    Yes, I am generally tired of hearing the terms “ROI,” and “Leverage.” (in fact, I have a blog post planned about the latter)

    If we just get a grip and do, and quit talking about it, it seems all goes as it should, just like you imply above.

    The hashtag, #youmattertome, is this something you are working on – a trend to see where it goes? There are others using #youmatter. (Wondered if you were hoping to meet people of like minds, or begin a new group).

    Groovy graphics!

    ~Keri

    • Keri,

      I’m glad to hear we are on the same page here! In fact, the whole bit about off-putting business speak will be a recurring theme for my upcoming podcast with James St. John (@stjohnmarketing). I feel the jargon and semantics of how we frame and “sell” things often keeps us from realizing our full potential.. And it makes the rest of us look frivolous and perhaps even silly!

      Looking forward to your upcoming blog post. Perhaps we can collaborate and cross-promote your content via our podcast and other platforms? I smell collaboration!

      Yes, get a grip and just DO IT. Truth.

      Good catch on the hashtag. I gave it quite a bit of thought. Honestly, I was going to stick with trending hashtags in accordance to hashtags.org data but I wanted to be able to measure the effects of this particular movement and not just ride out a wave. That may not be good SEO or Inbound Marketing but I feel that #youmattertome has more warmth to it. It makes you feel like we are closer to each other, don’t you think?

      So, yes, I’m trying to start a new “group” so to speak.. And those that search tweets using the keywords “you matter” will still encounter this new hashtag. So we’ll see what sort of turn-out we get.. If the response lacks, I’ll truncate and go with the more popular hashtag. It’ll be another fun social experiment, much like my recent “Tell A Friend: The Magic al Power Of Ten” campaign (which had fantastic results)!

      I dig the graphics too! I figured I’d spice this article up more. Folks sure do love those image searches, after all. 8)

  3. You know what they say that happens when you throw a rock into a pack of dogs… the only one that actually barks is the one it hit. Man… Ruff! That hit me hard! I actually enjoyed the hit though. :) It let’s me know in what area to do better in. It’s not enough to reciprocate, we need to branch out and meet each other half way. Heck, we’re all heading in the same direction anyways.

    I loved your concept also on building relationships, because ultimately that’s what the craft of blogging is. You’ve been off the chain today man! Dropping some MAD knowledge on me. Well done my friend. I needed this. :)

    • Right on!

      And I’m not knocking the simple reciprocation.. It has it’s place, as do metrics and all that jazz. I just want to make sure everyone remembers what matters in the end: people. Nothing happens without people.

      You’re absolutely right about the blogging end-game too. Whether you build a community or a tribe, engaging people is what it’s all about.

      Dropping knowledge.. That’s how I roll, bro!

      Truth be told, I’ve been fired up because it seems like every site or person I touch has been thinking about the same stuff.. So it’s made the momentum easy to keep building up. This Support-A-Thon stuff is where it’s at: people that get excited about YOUR success! I think we can all get down with that. Do more giving and less expecting.. Ditch the sense of entitlement, I say. 8)

      #supportathon – Keep it going!

      #youmattertome

  4. That was easy! [laughing] I actually got that big red button on my desk. I originally bought it for one of my software development teams (seven years ago) to illustrate to them what a customer expects from a killer app. It’s kinda weird, but the battery hasn’t died on that thing after much abuse and use.

    It’s interesting too that you mention it. I’m listening…

    What were we talking about? Oh yeah – what social is…

    I have the impression that social media got really exciting when connections were increasing at geometric rates beyond our humble expectations (and capacity). Two years ago, incapacity wasn’t a real concern because our expectations were exceeded by seemingly boundless connections. I’m talking about Twitter here. Mostly.

    So here we are, the rate of new connections is just not happening for 99 percent of us like it is was doing two years. Not to mention that we don’t have the intellectual capacity or time to keep up with 1000 thought leaders. Not to mention that we don’t have the capacity to engage with more than 100 people – regardless of all the apps out there.

    I think it’s normal for us all to question what we’re doing, what is engagement, and if any of it makes sense.

    More soon.

    Stan Faryna

    Wild ideas on my blog: How to say I’m sorry: A Letter from Osama bin Laden http://wp.me/pbg0R-bA

    • Haha!

      You know, the big red button symbolizes a lot in the business world, especially in development and design work. The whole UX thing eludes most of us. Simplicity is what made Google search the standard when Yahoo! seemed unstoppable.

      The same happens with social media, with particular focus on social networking and relationship/lead nurturing. The tools may make us more efficient but I am with you: no one can tell me that they engage with more than 100 people consistently, especially if they have more than 5000 contacts in their immediate network, especially not on Twitter.

      Heck, as you mentioned on the OsakaBentures blog, I just recently hit 1000 followers. It became almost inevitable thanks to Triberr and being more involved with tweetchats. Even people that do not follow me are retweeting my stuff and mentioning me. It’s pretty darn cool!

      I’m glad I’m not alone on this though I expect most to agree since popular opinion seems to be “play the numbers”. I can talk about volume, metrics, ROI, and big numbers. For example, I had a post on a new blog go from 1 to 10K views in a 24-hour period, far outweighing all other content pageviews – the home page inclusive!

      Sure, that’s rather exciting.. But did it translate into big things in other areas? Not so much. Of course, I got to meet some really cool game developers and that always excites me since I secretly want to get back into game design full-time.

      http://www.stumbleupon.com/to/1zOCw3/nipplesoffate.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/zombies-run-running-game-for-smartphones/t:4e754fe0e93a7;src:search

      That’s the article I am speaking of. I’ll likely blog about it as a case study for StumbleUpon. We’ll see. *grin*

  5. Wow, Yomar … you covered quite a bit in this post … let’s say it’s an intellectually rich arena! I have seen and been a beneficiary of the deep engagement you describe here. I can tell you that it’s a whole lot more satisfying than the superficial, largely meaningless interactions that often take place online. I doubt there are many people who would argue that. But satisfying on what level? Well, on a “human level”. Making a good connection with one human being, typically is more satisfying than making a superficial connection with 100 human beings — I think most people would agree. That is, if we’re talking about making connections on a “human level”. I think others would say, “it’s a numbers game and it’s not so much about depth of connections as it is about churning through large numbers of people until you encounter that “needle in a haystack” who is looking for whatever it is you have to offer. In the end, it really depends what your objectives are. Are you an online “mercenary” just trying to inflate your ratings and scores (whichever ones you choose to optimize) and make some quick money, or are you a long term player who wants to build a “deep” connection with a loyal tribe of empathetic, sincere “reciprocators”. If you asked ten people this question, you’d probably get 10 slightly different answers, each shaded slightly more or less toward the extremes of the spectrum. The bottom line, at least from my perspective, is that for most people, either extreme does not make sense. There is a need for BOTH “reach” and “richness”. Where the correct balance can be found likely is a bit different for everyone. The key is to figure out what your goals are and seek a balance and an approach that help you to accomplish those goals. Paul

    • Personal goals and communication style are huge factors by far. Balance is key; however, I’m more calling out businesses that do not sincerely care about people. It’s assumed we can only give away so much value and freebies. We have bills to pay, after all.

      The reality here is that the competitive landscape has change drastically. Customers have options and they can find them faster than you can say “alternatives”. I know I, for one, lean towards businesses that care about me or are recommended by friends I truly care about.

      Surely, we can’t be best friends with everyone in our marketplace or audience but it doesn’t hurt to go a little further with appreciation and acknowledgment. In fact, we discussed just how broken customer service and loyalty programs are in the business world. It led to many tangent issues on our #NJAB (Not Just Another Business) Podcast.

      Big brands can afford to throw millions into the numbers game and broadcasting their screams. For small business, I feel that building avid fans one customer at a time is both fulfilling as a human being and for purposes of profit (they’re not mutually exclusive endeavors).

      Of course, what works for you works for you. I’ve had great success in my methods because I’ve learned to give more and expect or “sell” less. The referrals and sales come naturally so it’s not always direct results. When I campaign hard and build relationships, I convert 20% of the time or more (after identifying well-aligned targets and measurable goals, of course). Again, that’s just works for me.

      More importantly, the currency in social engagement is not always apparent. I’ve seen lurkers avoid visible engagement (what some may call social proof, affirmation, or third-party validation).. Yet those folks may be the ones sizing you up before they even reach out. When there is not a fit for their needs but they like you or at least appreciate your core values, vision, or mission, they may very well refer you to a friend.

      I actually had someone contact me recently just because a friend told him about an article I wrote. That got him to view related content and find some of my other sites. Now that extra traffic has turned into increased visibility with a “niche market” and great opportunity for collaboration and networking further.

      In short, we all have to remember to focus on the heart of our business, the things that keep us billable (and income streams steady), but don’t forget to at least acknowledge those that provide us different types of currency.. There’s hidden value throughout our networks because strong friendships can become influential alliances. 8)

      (Ha Paul.. You got me going again, man! I’m quite passionate about this subject matter so I hope I am driving my points home for everyone.)

  6. Pingback: Blog Soup 01.17.2012 How to curate people and other social media DOHs « The unofficial blog of Stan Faryna

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