Sincerely social

Having hundreds of connections of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook is a bit like having a huge pile of businesscards: It’s irrelevant. Do you really know these people? Do they really know you?

We often believe that these numbers tell us the score on how social we are, but more often than not they’re misleading. Starbucks has 32 million likes on Facebook. But just how social are they?

Many guides on ‘how to be social’ contain advice like; have an engaging cover photo, do giveaways and place content whom fans can identify with. But that’s not the point. Besides, people will like just about anything on Facebook. Walmart posted a photo, saying “Like this if you ever jumped in a pile of leaves in the fall“, resulting in 170k likes.

But is that social? If somebody shows you a funny photo of himself, is he being social? Or, how about he helps you doing the dishes?

I’m merely trying to show a new perspective on this, but Avinash Kaushik was right when he labelled ‘hits’, as ‘how idiots track succes’. For years, I tried to make the numbers go up on my website – and when I tried that, they did. It’s not that difficult – but it wasn’t making me write better articles.

If you’re going to be social, what matters is the actual bond between you and your audience. Likes, retweets or followers can’t quantify such thing.

To give a hint; my last article, ‘Write‘, got me a lot of emails and messages from people who said they where inspired and who wanted to start writing too. To me, that means so much more than some numbers could ever express.

Some brands are being social in the right way – but for me, the best example comes from Tom Beckman, creative director at a PR agency called Prime, from Sweden. In Cannes last year he spoke about PR campaigns, and how most of them are just lame jokes, begging for media attention. He advised to do something worthwhile, saying: ‘Media is not the message – business is the message.’ His example was an organisation of Swedish plumbers who went to Africa and helped to build pipelines for water there. They could’ve also done some lame stunt on a crowded square in Stockholm, but this way, it actually meant something.

So people (and brands), if you want to be sincerely social, focus on ‘how can I mean the most to others’, instead of ‘how can I reach the most people’. Social isn’t about you, and it certainly isn’t about pursuing sales, hits or likes. Social is helping others for the act of doing it. And in return, those people will help you as well – which is very rewarding. Much more than a like could ever be.