The Future of Social: Networks

By: Guest | December 5, 2011 | 

Today’s guest post is written by  Michael Schechter.  

I’m not usually one for predictions, it’s just not in my DNA to whip out my crystal ball and try to gaze to the future.

However, when you spend enough time in any space, you start to see trends and recurring themes that offer insight into what’s coming next.

During the past few years, social media has been an individual sport: A way to put out your shingle and start making a name for yourself.

While groups, businesses and associations can all leverage the tools, there is often the feeling that social media has been meant to level the playing field rather than support traditional hierarchy.

Sure, not every user is created equal, but overall, the explosion of the personal brand created a far flatter system.

So what is changing?

The more time we spend online, the more we discover who we want to hear from, and who we want to win. Even though we started out on our own hoping to grow a personal brand or a business, we inevitably and almost unconsciously pick our team.

We’ve already seen examples of this, both formal and accidental. The Read & Trust network is a fantastic example of writers banding together to both help raise awareness for their individual work while building a business model.

One look to those who are often referred to as the A-listers of social media and you will see they are often as invested in each other’s success as they are their own. This kind of focused selflessness (which admittedly helps one’s self-interest) seems to be a key to rising above the fray.

So what’s next?

While I may look foolish later for saying so, I can’t help but think that this is a sign of what’s to come. That it is time for us to start taking serious steps toward building tighter networks. We are seeing early signs and models that embrace this idea such as features such as Google circles and businesses such as Triberr, but in order to really take these efforts to the next level, you’re going to have to do something that can’t be automated.

We’ll have to go beyond just connecting with others and start investing our time and energy in supporting their efforts. We’ll have to stop going at it alone and start teaming up in new ways. We’ll have to stop caring about the attention of those above us and start taking a lot more interest in those beside us. And we’ll have to care about the success of each other as much, if not more, than we care about our own.

Michael Schechter is the digital marketing director for Honora Pearls, a company specializing in freshwater pearl jewelry. He writes about all things digital on his blog.

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62 responses to “The Future of Social: Networks”

  1. fergusonsarah says:

    great post! Somehow I agree with you at some point, and I like it when you said about taking some serious step to building a tighter network.

  2. Erin F. says:

    I hope you don’t look foolish later. I like all the ideas you mention in the final paragraph. jasonkonopinski mentioned some similar ideas in his second post about gratitude. I agree that the connections we make need and should be more than superficial ones. We have to invest in each other. It’s always a risk when we invest in people, but I think the rewards are much greater.

    • MSchechter says:

      @Erin F. I look foolish daily… even if I’m dead wrong, I still think its something worth hoping for. Especially when you can see the difference it is making for networks like Read and Trust. It’s always a risk to invest in someone, but it’s a bigger one to invest in no one.

  3. HowieSPM says:

    Been living this world Michael for a long time. I have a way of connecting my whole life with people I align with in various ways. Like a magnet. And I have never cared about fame, fortune, or who those connections were. That is why I don’t read but a few of the top 100 marketing blogs or the top people on Twitter. They aren’t my type. I like edgy smart people like @ginidietrich @DannyBrown and you vs the safe ‘whitebread’ folks like Scoble or Brogan or Solis. Playing it safe never wins you much but 0.5% in your money market account 😉

    And I definitely see value in tighter networks that let each person be freer with thought without concern of public sharing.

  4. NancyD68 says:

    I think we do this already to a greater or lesser extent Michael. Every time we consistently visit one person’s blog over another, every time we interact on Google+ or Twitter or Facebook (I know how much skypulsemedia loves interacting on Facebook) but what we are doing then is closing our ranks.

    We do this almost by instinct since as Maslow points out we all have a need to belong, whether that belonging is to a person or to a larger group, we all have this need and we all refine as we go along.

    • MSchechter says:

      @NancyD68 This absolutely happens organically, but there is something to starting to formalize these relationships. I’ve found so many great voices who are so supportive of one another through Read and Trust. The work informs the friendship and vice versa. Gini’s certain done a great job of organically fostering that here, think the next logical step is intentional building it.

  5. KenMueller says:

    I think you’re right, Michael, and in many ways already seeing the birth pangs of this. And I think what will make it work best, just like any other social innovation, is when it happens organically. I’m certainly grateful for the network I have, much of which stems from right here at Spin Sucks, and I think @ginidietrich embodies this, or in some natural way, encourages this.

    Now I need to make a joke about her or something or she’ll think I’ve gone soft. Hmmm.

    • Erin F. says:

      @KenMueller She’s already upset with me for suggesting a line of Gini Dietrich coffee mugs. Maybe you can build on that idea. @ginidietrich

    • MSchechter says:

      @KenMueller Organic is great, but at a certain point I wonder if it needs to formalize to really start to make a difference. We need to think of obnoxious quickly or she’ll think we care for her… I’ve got nothing…

      • KenMueller says:

        @MSchechter Agreed, and I think Triberr is a form of formalization. I think we need to be careful of TOO much formality. Perhaps what we’re looking at is an online version of the off-line Coworking spaces that we are seeing pop up all over the place. They allow for an interesting, free-form sort of collaboration.

        • Erin F. says:

          @KenMueller@MSchechter I think the formalization will become necessary in order to achieve any sort of goal. If not, it’s just a group of people uniting around an idea. That’s great, but it doesn’t necessarily result in action. Maybe some form of strategic partnerships?

        • MSchechter says:

          @KenMueller Great real world example. And I couldn’t agree more. Too much formality and you essentially started a company together. There is a balance where you maintain autonomy, but strengthen the relationships.

        • MSchechter says:

          @Erin F. The right word is likely an Alliance. A clear indication of interests while maintaining autonomy.

        • Erin F. says:

          @MSchechter That’s much better. The strategic partnership idea was a filler until something better could be found. The phrase makes me think of some cloistered networking groups. An alliance doesn’t have that connotation.

        • MSchechter says:

          @Erin F. And it does make you think about Star Wars, which is kind of bad ass…

        • NancyD68 says:

          @MSchechter@Erin F. There could be SuperHero costumes involved with this…

        • MSchechter says:

          @NancyD68@Erin F. Better question, where shouldn’t there be super hero costumes involved?

        • Erin F. says:

          @MSchechter True. Have you ever seen Star Wars fans and Trekkies fight? It’s hilarious. I used the metaphor to describe the fights that happen when the topic of prose poems arises in creative writing workshops. Equally hilarious.

  6. byronfernandez says:

    This was great Michael. Especially loved this section:

    “We’ll have to stop caring about the attention of those above us…

    and start taking a lot more interest in those beside us”

    Brought to mind a point my PR mentor in college made throughout the program’s development: Servant leadership. Success from selflessness… 🙂

  7. TheJackB says:

    I’m not usually one for predictions, it’s just not in my DNA to whip out my crystal ball and try to gaze to the future

    Magic 8 Ball my friend- the Magic 8 Ball.

  8. bdorman264 says:

    Please Michael, don’t whip anything out……..

    Hmmm…..I haven’t thought of it like that, but one of the things that I discovered very quickly in my personal journey is I had to quit chasing. Once I started concentrating on what I could control, and that was me, and not worry about what or what was not going on above me, it actually created a calming effect and got me closer to sustainability. I do try to take interest in those around me and help as much as I can. If that is what is going on in the big arena then maybe I was actually an early adopter of something, huh?

    I have always tried to help and support my friends as much as possible and for those who have had success, I am very happy.

    I got into social because I thought it was supposed to be social. Anything I’ve learned or gained since then has been a bonus.

    • MSchechter says:

      @bdorman264 Definitely done my fair share of chasing, it doesn’t pay. Two questions… 1) What’s sustainability, I’m unfamiliar with the idea… and getting into social to be social… crazy talk!

  9. Raj-PB says:

    Very true. It will be better if social media network allow us to find out people with similar interests more easily. Maybe they could even suggest – look at these people, they are interested in blogging and have a lot of followers. G+ could go that way in future, and thats one reason I like G+

    • MSchechter says:

      @Raj-PB I’ve never found that to be all that difficult, but I actually find blogs like this to be the ideal starting point for finding like minded crazy people.

  10. Raj-PB says:

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that FB allows us to follow only the most boring offline people whom we already know!

    • MSchechter says:

      @Raj-PB Oh, I don’t know… I’ve found some weirdos over there… most of them have already commented on this post…

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  14. ginidietrich says:

    First of all, the necklace we raffled off last night was a big hit. Thank you!

    Secondly, you know I think you’re right about this. It’s how I’ve been running my business for years. I work with people I like and respect on projects that make the client lots of money. I’m better at doing that than having a gazillion employees I have to manage.

  15. byronfernandez says:

    @ginidietrich Which is why you’re the best at what you do Gini! : )

  16. Shonali says:

    So in a way, it sounds like you’re saying, go back to being human and working together… do I have that right? The tighter network thing is something I’ve definitely been experiencing and focusing on this year – it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped growing my network(s), but the people I truly rely on are few and far between. And I’d like to think that they rely on me too.

    And I second Gini’s thanks for the necklace and your #bluekey support. You rock!

    • MSchechter says:

      @Shonali In a way… but I think it’s more a matter of taking those older style connections and really bringing them to the current channels. I’m with you, I’m always open to meeting someone new, but I find my time is better spent getting to know someone I’ve already connected with better. Any my pleasure on BlueKey, sounds like Chicago was a great event!

  17. kathryn says:

    Could not agree more with your insights! And the hidden jewels are in the fact that not only do the folks who embrace this approach of connecting with others and supporting their success benefit from this approach, ultimately the end client gets an exponentially better product. The nature of consultative outcomes, when led by people engaging in what they are passionate about, working together in loose collaborative “collectives” based on the customers’ situational and specific needs will produce a stronger recommendation and better product for the client!

    • MSchechter says:

      @kathryn It’s very true, the better the network we build, the better we become by proxy. And everyone from the individual all the way down to the client will benefit.

  18. Soulati | PR says:

    Do you think the solo will fail if they don’t connect with a larger social network? Will these ahem, “cliques” be closed to newcomers if those connections aren’t formed already?

    We’re seeing communities of bloggers forming now; I did this a year ago and the failure in that concept is riding herd to get others to commit consistently. With varying interest levels, having a community or a network of like-minded is definitely an exercise in cat herding.

    Thoughts on that? (Perhaps comments provide fodder for this question; sorry didn’t head down that way.)

    • Erin F. says:

      @Soulati | PR I don’t know that any of the comments address your points directly. My fear would be the creation of something akin to BNI. I’m not a fan of the closed network model. It’s a little…uh, incestuous?

      I don’t have an answer to the cat herding. I’ve had to play cat herder in the past, and it’s tiring. Maybe if the herder role could be shared it wouldn’t be such a wearisome task.

      • MSchechter says:

        @Erin F.@Soulati | PR Closed networks have their place, but that’s not what I’m touching on here. And there is only one solution I know of for the cat herding conundrum. Make whatever it is your doing easy or compelling enough so that the herding is unnecessary.

    • MSchechter says:

      @Soulati | PR I don’t think they will fail, but I think they are making it harder on themselves. As for the “cliques” I think the networks will be somewhat open, but the core membership with be somewhat static. You always need to leave the door open a crack, but it takes a while to build trust and a rapport.

      As for getting them to commit, that’s what I find to be so intelligent about Read & Trust. It’s a weekly newsletter and one member writes it each week. The workload is marginalized, yet the relationships that stem from the group are beyond obvious.

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  21. rachaelseda says:

    Yes, I too love that other professionals I have become friends with via social media have supported me and helped me and I try to do the same as well. The first thing I thought of was the beautiful necklaces you donated to help the Blue Key Campaign raise money for refugees. It’s about helping each other and supporting each other not getting ahead no matter what the cost. I would point out that just like any relationship, this all takes time, it’s not instant. The friends I have made from social media have been people I have gotten to know over months and years.

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