Two Ways to Make Social Networking Really Pay

First off I want to apologize to anyone who came to this post expecting to hear about some new secret tool or approach for gaining Facebook fans.

The reality is that you make social networking pay the way you’ve always made networking pay – by focusing on two things – who you can help and who can help you. (If you find that you initially recoil a bit at the bluntness of that statement, I’ll explain it in a way that may help.)

Image linus_art via Flickr CC

Now, if you accept that my basic networking statement is true, then you must surely also come to the realization that it’s not a numbers game – well, actually it is, but it’s not a “get lots of followers game.”

If you are going to limit your networking to those you can help or target and network with someone that can help you, you’ve got a real capacity problem.

See, in order to do either or both, you must actually get to know something about the hopes, dreams, goals and objectives of the person you’re trying to network with and you can’t do that with a “follow” or a “like.”

The surest way to make social networking pay is to build deeper relationships with fewer people. Likes and follows and witty tweets may create awareness for your brand and open doors for actual networking, but nothing can deliver the payoff of actually helping someone else get what they want or connecting with someone who can help you get what you want.

But here’s the really interesting thing about this point of view – you accomplish both – helping people get what they want and connecting with those that can help you get what you want in exactly the same way – and that’s by giving.

Here’s your 2-part assignment for the next month.

1) Identify five people that you know you can help and that you would appreciate your help and reach out and offer to do something very specific to help them with your only goal being to raise them up a bit and start to build a relationship based on giving.

2) Identify five people that you know can help you achieve an objective this year and reach out and offer to do something very specific to help them with your only goal being to become a resource and start to build a relationship based on giving.

Sure, all that helping people get what they want might cut into your tweeting, but by building fewer, deeper, stronger, authentic relationships in this very manner you can make your social networking efforts pay off royally.

Join Our Content Community

First Name

Last Name

Your Email (this will be your username)

Password (at least 8 characters, 1 number, 1 upper and lowercase letter)

Already a member? Log In

  • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

    Yes! Quality, not quantity. I started reaching out individually to each of my Facebook fans this year (via private message) and the response has been great. It’s fun to take just a few extra seconds to look over someone’s profile and then start a conversation with them around something of mutual interest. It’s too bad Facebook was hiding these messages in the “other” folder. I didn’t realize most folks weren’t seeing these until just last week. But that’s okay! Enough people found them, and that’s what matters.

    • ducttape

      Love that habit – it’s something you can do every day for a few minutes, like weeding a garden, maybe that’s not a good example, but you get it – the payoff both now and down the road is awesome.

  • Carmen Sognonvi

    Love this – it’s such a simple but effective way to think about social networking. Not sure if others feel this too, but I’m having a much harder time coming up with the first list of 5 people (whom can I help?) than the second list (who can help me?). Thinking about who can benefit from what I do raised all kinds of self-doubt in me – which is weird because I generally think of myself as a pretty confident person.

    • ducttape

      Hey Carmen – this may be just me, but I feel self-doubt and even fear about something, I’ve come to realize that’s the world telling me I need to do that thing the most.

      • Carmen Sognonvi

        I think you’re onto something, John. :) Will be giving this more thought in the weeks to come.

  • louvastardis

    Great thoughts here. In Grouped by Paul Adams he explains how the core idea (The Law of the Few) within Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is flawed because “influencers” are not limited to just a small number of highly connected people. John’s idea above about the “top five people who can help” is a different way at looking at The Law of the Few. Relating to this, check out the invention of Trustlines ( The big idea is that if you identify up to five people you want to learn from most (in a specific topic), you also get to learn from the people they trust most – to the 3rd degree of separation.  Vineloop’s trust graph (recently launched in beta) represents a game changing opportunity to enhance how users learn and discover in today’s world.

  • Urban Media

    It’s all about building relationships – quality ones. Start conversations and create content that people will RT, share and ‘like’. We like the 2-part assignment there, it’s something that we tell our clients often!
    Internet Marketing & Website Design in High Wycombe:


  • Kabbage Sean

    Check out “The Thank You Economy”-Gary Vayberchuk. Great book about the exact same concepts. It’s for sure the future of social networking for businesses.

  • Ryan Hanley


    This is the Tips buddy… This is the deal.  Great post.

    These are the reasons that 2012 Online for me is all about creating resources that Deliver Value First and acquiring reviews and recommendations on as many sites as possible.  Trust, relationship these are the focus words.

    I acquired a new insurance client yesterday.  When I asked him why he called us he said, “I went to Yelp, you had two great recommendations.  Couldn’t find any other local agents with recommendations…”


    Have a very Merry Christmas!

    Ryan H.

  • Danny Griffin

    Short and accurate. Well thought out post…

  • Joel Cheuoua

    That’s so right on the point. Maybe missing is the fact that most people use social networking as a way to stay in touch but also fail to do that efficiently. “We’ll be in touch …”  is easy to say but it’s actually hard to really do, and yes it requires to know what are the interests of your connection, how you can help him or her or what you can ask from him or her. This article summarizes this well.

    I’m excited about this stuff because this is exactly the problem my company (shameless plug: is tackling. We make it easy for people to really stay on top of their social life by providing a platform when not only they can focus only on important people in their social networks and therefore save time, but also they can share ideas and goals to be there for each other and do things together.

  • Chris Haught

    Great post! When we become authentic and giving, the rewards are enormous. Thanks John!

  • Kevin Blumer

    Facebook has became my fan over time ive learnt what to do and what not to do dont post everyday for example youll lose to many people most people seem to be happy with once a week. Use facebook as your own little tool but just be conservative 

  • Kirsty Wilson

    Agree totally! Social media is about relationship marketing. Social media has been amazing for my small business because I’ve focused not on the numbers but the relationships made. I’m following no more than 2k but I could tell you who most of them are, where they are from and what they do. I could not possibly retain this for numbers in excess of 10k! If you build relationships & engage, people will listen. And, if it’s about collecting numbers, more than likely they aren’t listening to you!

  • Work From Home

    Social media is here to stay, and promises to fundamentally change the way we do business. As a result, old roles and perceptions should be refreshed, and technology and business teams must learn to work hand-in-hand to guide businesses through a new age marked by a whole new set of risks and rewards. The time to make these changes is now.

  • Lynn Brown

    Well said John!  and if anyone is put off from your advice, then they are in it for different reasons.  For me, I think I am glad I learned how to market, network and build connections before there was any social media at all.  Giving is a part of getting back.  I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and the two part challenge is a great way to focus in on this concept.

  • Mark Bower

    Wow John. This is a great post. I’m blown away because your thinking mirrors ours almost exactly.

    I’d love you to take a look at CubeSocial ( and let me know what you think. 

    We have set out to provide a tool that helps businesses accelerate the traditional know-like-trust cycle instead of track the number of followers and likes (vanity stuff in our eyes). 

    This is the stuff we do: 
     * Automatically discover social media profiles
     * Record conversation history with all your online contacts 
     * Discover new leads 
     * Coordinate social media activity across a team

    If you can spare a moment, it would be great to hear what you think of it.