So, here’s the problem. For five hours per week, you can maintain a ‘network’ of friends on some or multiple social media platforms. Those ‘relationships’ are every bit as good as a Holiday Greeting Card list.
You know how well that works.
Greeting card lists are as interesting as the relationships they are built upon. If it’s a collection of friends and colleagues with whom you have worked and or played, there is embedded value in those connections already. The energy you use to maintain the network is a way of protecting and growing something that already has value. Networks based on shared experience (work, school, family, organizational, church, disaster, travel and so on) begin with common ground and reciprocal perceptions of the importance of the relationship.
If the ties are built within the constructs of social media, the aggregate value of the relationships depends on the ongoing investment you make. For an online relationship to have the same gravitas as one built on shared experiences, you have to have shared experience or its equivalent.
There is also something interesting about the list itself. For some, it’s a badge of honor to be in the Clinton Family Rolodex and on their list. This is in spite of the fact that money and value flow one way, for the most part on this or any political organization’s list.
So, there are two aspects of online network relationships; the shared thing among members of a group or list and the value received from being on the list. The idea, when you are building an audience, is to have the two merge so that the value comes from being on the list. But, that takes significant and, more importantly, competent, investment.
The investment you have to make comes in two chunks. Maintenance investment is what keeps relationships from going bad. Remember the shelf life idea? Maintenance investments extend the shelf life of a relationship. Five hours per week will go a long way towards maintaining 1,000 relationships. You must make the maintenance investment or the list will go rotten.
The other investment chunk is where the real game is. Think of it as fertilizer or value added. It’s harder. This is the money and energy you spend to make the list something that people want to be a part of. This is the value that members get from being on your list. It’s the most expensive part of social media utilization.
Some companies, like Sonar6, seem to have a real grasp of how to deliver content that engages and begs the reader to return for more. The famous dispatches from Starr-Tincup are also high value reads. Over the years, RecruitingBlogs.com has cobbled together routine excitement for its membership in this way.
You know what it feels like to be a part of one of these networks (list, communities, whatevers). Membership is something you think about and value. You look forward to it when it comes like a favorite show, club, band or event. It’s what a social media outreach program has to try to achieve if its going to be successful.