Why The Royal Wedding is Like Building Social Media Relationships.

April 29, 2011

I’ve never been a fan of big weddings. While it is wonderful to share a special occasion with the bride and groom, you never really get to spend any time with them at the event. They spend much of their time briefly chatting with friends and family before being pulled away to speak to the next guest. While the world watches The Royal Wedding, I can only imagine how William and Kate feel today. This is such a precious day  in their lives and they probably won’t get to spend too much time with the people who matter most to them in the world. Instead, they will smile and share slivers of time with people, rather than giving them dedicated and focused attention.

Believe it or not, this has me thinking about social media and relationship building. Recently, I had an interaction with someone on Twitter who was frustrated that he couldn’t have more than 30,000 LinkedIn contacts. No, that’s not a typo, I said 30,000. I asked him how he could possibly manage that many relationships. How could he possibly cultivate meaningful connections with so many people? He told me that it was simply about the numbers. The more people that you connect with the greater chance of making a sale. I respectfully disagreed.

Mass marketing and extensive reach works well with products, but services are different. Yes, there are exceptions to all of these generalizations, but here is what I am thinking.

When I go to New York and schedule meetings, I usually suggest meeting at Starbucks. While I enjoy a non-fat latte as much as the next person, that’s not why I pick Starbucks. I go there because there is one on just about every corner. In essence, Starbucks is an unlimited resource. When Starbucks has a million and a half followers on Twitter, they can handle the relationship.

Now let’s take a look at my friend, Billy Kirsch who owns KidBilly Music. Last night he hit the 1000 follower mark. It was an accomplishment for him because he has strategically been growing his following. He has looked to connect with people who he can learn from and who represent potential business opportunities. It’s now up to him to develop and convert these relationships. But, how many connections can he handle?

If Billy has 1000 followers, it is likely that if he attends an event related to his target market, that he will  already know people. He will probably be able to spend meaningful time with people, maybe even share a meal or a cup of coffee.  But what happens when Billy grows his online presence to 100,000 followers? He sells a service and he represents his brand. What happens then, when he goes to an event and has thousands of potential people to connect with? Does he spend a few superficial moments with people, never getting into a deep conversation, never getting to know the core of who people are or does he carefully plan his time and select a handful of people to spend quality time with?  In this case he would have built up a large following of potential buyers, but  he couldn’t possible manage building relationships with all of them.

Now the question is, does this matter? Does it matter if we create meaningful relationships or does having a broad reach negate the importance of personal connections?  Maybe there is a middle ground? Maybe it is important to stay true to who you are, what your service is and to remember that every interaction represents your brand. Maybe it is more important to value people who care about connecting with you, while looking to slowly grow your inner circle. Maybe it is important to know when you have reached capacity and have a plan to handle what comes next. Maybe it is important to figure out who the quality people are and to prioritize relationships (easier said than done).

In any event, congratulations to William and Kate on their marriage. Congratulations to Billy on his Twitter milestone. Congratulations to all of you who are taking the time to get to know people and to those of you who have figured out the right balance.