Who is your best friend? Is it someone who you see fairly frequently or someone who you only bump into once in a blue moon? Whose opinion do you value most in your circle of friends? The person who you know well? Or the person who you have hardly any contact with? You get the picture – the people we tend to see as most friendly and most trusted are those we have the most frequent contact with.
True, you can maintain friendships “at a distance” and you can re-acquaint yourself with old friends who you haven’t seen in ages as though there had been no gap at all. But mostly, the best friends we have are the ones we see regularly and when we see them the contact lasts more than just a few minutes. Yes, you might see your next door neighbours more regularly than your best friends, but how “deep” is that relationship? You see, in the offline social world we all inhabit there are two factors that are important to us – the frequency and the depth of contact.
So, if you take part in online social networks this is an important consideration. People often ask “how many blog posts should I write each month?” Or, “how many Tweets should you send?” Or, “what’s the best frequency to write on someone’s Facebook wall?” And all across the Internet you’ll find guidance telling you a “number” – such things as the “optimum number of blog posts”, or that you should send a certain “number of Tweets per day”. It’s as though people are seeking a scientific answer; they want to be told something like “write four blog posts a week, Tweet ten times a day and write on a Facebook wall every other Saturday”. But such “rules” are complete tosh. Ignore them.
After all, in the “real world” does anyone say “for best friends you should meet up every third day, for good friends you should phone every other Wednesday and for acquaintances makes sure you send a postcard from you holiday”..! “Rules” like this don’t exist in real world social groups – so why are we seeking them online?
Partly it’s because we don’t fully perceive online social networks as truly social in the offline sense; we still see them as technology. There is another issue too; if we do conduct our online social networking activities in the same way as our offline ones it will mean we have to do much more online activity than we might be prepared for. Our subconscious is aware of this and hence we get the message that we ought to look for rules.
In the real world, we know that to get people to like us and trust us we have to have several, increasingly deep contacts. The same is true online. If you want to use social networks effectively in your business it is only going to work if you have several, repeated contacts with people in your network and – with some of the closest contacts – rather deep and lengthy online connection. In other words, in order to succeed with social media you need to do lots of it. And that puts off many business people who hope that the occasional blog, a Tweet or two and a sporadic dip into Facebook is all that is needed.
But look at it the other way. Would you be ready to trust or recommend someone who you only met a couple of times a year down the local pub? It means that if you only occasionally use social networks and social media that’s how your audience perceives you – a mere acquaintance (and often sometimes it’s difficult to remember exactly who you are anyway). The only way you get remembered, liked and trusted is with repeated, frequent and lengthy contact – just as it is in the “real world”.
That means you need to post items in social networks frequently, regularly, often. Loads of stuff – not occasional tidbits. So instead of asking yourself things like “how many blog posts should I write” ask something such as “have I done enough for people to remember me, trust me, respect me and like me?”. The chances are that the vast majority of business people using social networks are asking the first question – and that almost certainly means they are doing nowhere near enough social networking online. Rather than trying to limit and “tame” your social networking you should be doing more and more and more of it – just as you do in the real world to maintain those friendships.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+