If you stick around long enough, you wind up being a “joiner.”
You know – you join the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the local Football Boosters, become a Brownie Leader, a Den Mom, a Pack leader, a Baseball Coach, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Some things you join by dint of merely “being.” Your family, for example – the “ur” social network.
Other groups you join because you want something: better access to potential clients, being around people who are like minded, hopping on the proverbial band wagon of a popular sports team (you Detroit Red Wings fans – I’m talkin’ to you).
In all “traditional” groups in the meat-space (the “real” world) you are encouraged or incentivized to participate through a series of rewards and punishments: the perfect attendance certificate at the end of a course, the fines incurred if you miss too many civic club meetings, the five bucks you owe to the Sargent-At-Arms if you don’t wear your group pin.
It seems to me that a significant component missing in most existing Social Networks (the “new” world as it were) is the idea of concrete rewards and punishment for participating (or NOT participating).
When I find myself speaking with a social media neophyte or outsider, I can almost see the words “what’s in it for me” rolling up in their eyeballs. Sure – wasting time on Facebook and Twitter can be fun – but what GOOD is it to me from a business standpoint? Not everyone is a blogger or an affiliate marketer or a knowledge worker.
In short, what is the payoff for participating in social networks, and as a corollary, what are the consequences of NOT participating?
For so much lip service paid online to “engagement”, I find in practice that very little actual engagement ever occurs online. I don’t consider trading quippy barbs with online “friends” as being engaging, though it is very pleasant to do so – at least for me.
What I’m talking about is developing those relationships online that turn into ENGAGEMENTS – the virtual equivalent of the friend who will help you move for a six -pack of beer and a pizza, the friend who will take you to the airport on their day off, or take you to task when you’ve made an ass of yourself, at the risk of losing financially. THAT kind of engagement.
As I see it, as a group, members of online communities need to translate thought and words into action: ask for the order, commit to perform, get out of your chair and DO.
It is my belief that until online social networking can provably demonstrate concrete benefits for participation that in the long run they will fail.
As a practical experiment today, go out and find someone who is not actively online and try to convince them of the benefits of joining an online community – in a way that translates into more business for them and in a way that convinces them that by doing so it is a force multiplier and not a time waster.
Would love to hear how this goes.