I have plenty of “friends” and connections on social networking sites who I don’t actually know all that well or talk with on a regular basis. I’m at 598 on Facebook, 208 on LinkedIn, 165 followers on Twitter, and however many people actually bother to read my posts on the Raidious and Marketing Tech blogs.
What does this mean? Not a whole heck of a lot. Friends, connections and followers aren’t like dollars: having more doesn’t get you more of anything.
Unless you actually do something.
You can tweet all day until you’re blue in the face, share your Google Reader items (link building!) and all that jazz, but unless you get out there and make things happen all of that sharing means precisely nothing.
I am a big proponent of the idea that with a modicum of work and dedication, a person can make things happen while others are content to watch (and talk about it). In college I started out trading shows with other bands from other cities in the hardcore/post-punk scene. My band would play with bands in their city, and they would play with us here in Indianapolis.
Pretty soon, we had a great network built up. Then bigger bands I didn’t know started calling asking me to book shows for them. In a few short years I went from booking shows in people’s basements to filling small- and medium-sized bars and clubs.
Then in 2001 I got the opportunity to organize a show for the legendary band Fugazi. Long story short, with a lot of help from friends in the local community and a ton of work, we sold out a 700-capacity hall, had professional lights, sound, and security, and it was one of the highlights of my musical life.
Why did I, little old me, get the chance to do this? Because I was willing to work for it. Because I developed a reputation for being a straightforward, fair person with whom to work. Because I focused on what I cared about. Because I tried to give the city of Indianapolis experiences that it might not have ordinarily had.
Social networking sites are today’s analog of the underground/independent music scene spawned in the 70s and through its heydey in the early 2000s. People with common interests and influences connect with each other through a shared platform and experience. Some of these people are mere acquaintances, some of them may be dear friends and trusted colleagues.
By connecting with this diverse group with shared ideals, you instantly have a pool of resources you can call on. By putting in the hours and work to bring that community tangible experiences, you draw all of them closer together. And you’re engaged in the most wonderful human experience: putting something out into the world.
Organize a meet-up group. Attend a conference and actually talk with people without trying to sell them something. Volunteer to give lectures and workshops at local schools and businesses. Share yourself, not just your opinions.
“Draw a crazy picture,
write a nutty poem.
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
that ain’t been there before.”
(I think about this poem often. I’ve reproduced it here without consent, so go buy a book or two to make up for my transgression. But these words are important to me and I really wanted to share.)