There’s a scene in the movie Goodfellas where Ray Liotta’s character, Henry Hill, takes his new girlfriend out to the Copacabana for the first time. As he passes the long line to get in, several people greet him by name. He knows the doormen, the kitchen staff, the Maître d’, and the group at the next table sends drinks their way. Henry’s new lady is blown away—impressed and smitten.
Henry Hill’s journey through the Copacabana is not unlike what we are seeing in social networking circles. In the business world, it has long been assumed that the bigger the rolodex, the bigger the business. What social networks have done is put that Rolodex on display for the world to see. Whether on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, the lust for a larger network is larger than ever. But at what cost?
I’ve talked to numerous people who reminisce about the days of Twitter when their followers hovered around 200. They were engaged, responding to interesting comments, learning interesting new strategies and tactics in and outside of their industry and attending Tweetups with familiar faces. Now “blessed” with thousands of followers, the Twitter experience is noisier and more impersonal. The very conversational nature that made Twitter so attractive in its nascent stages has been compromised, and the conversation has become a broadcast.
Similarly, Facebook users are now inundated with updates from the hyperactive members of their network and miss key announcements like the birth of a friend’s child or a close former colleague who ended up selling his business.
It’s easy to get wide-eyed looking for more friends, contacts and followers because you’re watching the needle move a little higher each time you promote your brand, product or service in these channels. It might just be the only truly quantifiable piece of your social media strategy, so it’s easy to justify. However, abandoning the exchange of the ideas, input and concerns (the very things that enhance your product and strengthen your brand) is a short-sighted approach.
A suite of filtering tools and features helps reduce the noise and the lack of focus that accompanies growth in social networks. As these tools mature, it’s important that people and businesses identify not only who they’re engaging—but how. Don’t abandon your roots just because you’ve grown into a social media hotshot. Listen, respond and deliver value.
Watch closely, Henry Hill’s trip through the Copacabana involved quite a few twenty dollar handshakes.