Amplifying your Inner Kevin Bacon

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I am amazed at how plugged in we have all become through the various social networks. I signed up for the Contently professional writers network this afternoon, connecting all of my various social networks to this Pinterest-like writers showcase tool, and thought to myself how ubiquitous these types of platforms have become.  The vast majority of us are plugged into the mainstream social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook,Twitter, and Google+. We use them for quick registration to comment on a blog, sign up for newsletters, or even to apply for credit. But are we really leveraging our networks? Are we tracking the right data to analyze and capitalize (professionally, if not financially) on our connections? Do you have networking goals (stated or unstated)? What are you trying to accomplish by participating? Who is your figurative Kevin Bacon, and how many steps away from him is your network?

image The science behind social networking is burgeoning, and most people are barely skimming the surface of what we can do with this data. Most of us are familiar with just the top layer — the people with whom we are directly connected. And through some tools, we can see into our second level (and sometimes third level) relationships. Linked in added some great visualizations for this data, which I am using more and more to get a quick synopsis of how I am connected to a prospective…er, well, connection. 

But how do you know whom to connect with to strengthen your overall network? THAT is the harder question to answer, and one which the mainstream platforms don’t address. I’ve written about this in the past, but the topic of social influence is becoming more and more important to content marketing – and corporate marketing strategy. Is social influence about the number of followers? How many re-tweets you receive? Or the depth of dialog you have, and the action that people take based on your own actions? Is there some other way to identify (intelligently) as to which connections will provide the most relevant connections based on your profile, your interests, your most recent searches?

Building social influence is not the same thing as building followers. Tools for building followers can be somewhat shady, with dozens (or more) tools out there to help you build followers. Mike Watson (@jmikewatson) and I even outlined, and started to build, a legitimate toolset for finding, qualifying, and regularly purging Twitter followers in what we envisioned to be an automated method for automating twitter followers. While i still think it would be a valuable tool (if anyone wants to partner on it and help me build it, let’s talk), the real power in building social influence is substance.

Let me say this REALLY LOUD: Creating marketing copy is not the same as developing authentic, valued content – which is the key to building social influence. Good content is the source of all successful social networking expansion strategies.

Once you have good content, the next step is distribution. As I shared in a previous post (The Power of Circles), Google+ has the ability to sort connections by sub-topic and serves as one of my primary distribution methods. Facebook may have limited value as a destination (more and more people are taking “Facebook vacations”) but because it focuses on the network you already have, its another great distribution method. LinkedIn takes things a step further, helping you to both distribution content and also to identify new connections (part of its model of using "trusted" connections) through your existing network as well as through public and private shared groups/interests.

What we need are tools that understand and interpret our profiles, that suggest connections outside of our existing networks — based on explicit network queries that you make manually, or are somehow automated (such as aggregating themes across multiple Bing! searches). And now you’re starting to understand the tool that Mike and I had envisioned (and i still want to build. Ping me. Really.)

We need to get smarter about the tools we use and the analysis we conduct if we hope to get the most value out of social networking, and amplify our inner Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacons, plural?). Any other thoughts on how to amplify your social profile?

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.