You follow them on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn and add them to your Google+ circles. You monitor the conversations, wait for the perfect chance to jump into the conversation and then offer your best relevant insight. You might get a response, but odds are you’ll only hear crickets.
Expectations for relationship building within social media have become unrealistic. For many, the sheer volume of discussions makes it impossible to respond to everyone. While a few conversations may occur over time, the odds of developing a lasting relationship is challenging. As has been discussed ad naseum, there is indeed a ceiling for how many people you can connect with and how many relationships you can actively maintain. How can you become worthy of more time?
The truth is, there is no replacement for face time. Who you are in social networks is only a small part of who you really are. What you learn from a face to face encounter and discussion is far more valuable than trading 20 tweets or commenting on someone’s Facebook wall. Those moments are fleeting and can be lost in the sea of other conversations over time. It’s not that people aren’t authentic and transparent via social networks, but the serendipidity of moments together in the same room generates a broader image of the people in our social graph.
Social connections only show you a small part of an individual. From that glimpse, we make assumptions of who they are, what they are interested in and what makes them tick.
To illustrate, here is what we see:
Based on that image, we assume this:
When in reality, it might look more like this:
Anonymity still exists online. Regardless of how transparent we try to be, there is always a side of ourselves we keep private or choose to share only with our closest connections… our relationships. While even the most recognizable names in social media try to embrace their social graph, it’s important to remember that a level of caution always exists. It’s difficult to formulate opinions about someone when you can only read their words. The assumptions we make and the judgements we pass are often founded on very little data.
While I am still drafting my SXSW 2012 lessons learned blog post, the fact that I was able to meet so many people during the festival really opened my eyes to my own misconceptions about who people are and the reputation that proceeds them. When meeting face to face, you have to leave those preconceptions behind. Even 5 minutes at a table in the lobby or at the terminal in the airport can tell you more about someone than following them on Twitter for 5 years.
Make the effort. It’s worth it when you find the happy apples.