You Are Only Worth As Much As Your Social Network

I was at dinner this evening with some friends, and we were talking about the experiences each of us have in our work. Now most of the friends were all ex-colleagues of mine, we all used to work at Microsoft in Singapore, and we all had first hand experience on what each other’s role was (We have all moved on to other companies since then), so it was interesting to listen one persons explanation about the types of people that they have in their company and how they work.

One of the roles in particular was on the concept of the “Relationship Manager”, and how their value could be increased by the network that they bring to them in the world of investments. This got me thinking about the whole concept of relationship management and how it related to someone in product marketing.

Typically in most organizations, or at least the ones I have worked in, the majority of the customer relationships were maintained in large Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, and when you ran events, lists of potential target accounts were generated and used for invitations and campaigns etc. This typically meant that Product Marketing would engage another department to get this list and work with that department to communicate the particular campaign. Assuming that your campaign generated the desired pipeline for your company, things were great. However, when you left that company, the names and contact details stayed in the system, which is the right thing to happen, those details are owned by the company itself.

With the advent of Social Media, the whole concept of a company owning all relationship details becomes blurred. Now days, it is the individual that owns and manages their contacts, and they aren’t doing that in an Excel spreadsheet or database, those details are being kept in places like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Companies aren’t at the point where they can control those lists, nor should they in the future in my opinion. While people may have a certain fondness or passion for a product or a service, the true relationship that people have are with other people. This has led to the concept of people being Brand Ambassadors in their companies, and being able to project the image a company wants to have to the shared with the world.

The failing in this is that when we connect the concept of a campaign to social media, there are limited examples where a campaign has truly had long term success in the social media arena. Campaigns typically have a ranging execution lifetime, and in many cases, just aren’t long enough to build the relationship. It’s the equivalent of having a one night stand, it was good at the time, but you probably want to move on after its done.

What we get back to here is that people want to connect with people, they want to engage with a human presence, even when its done on the internet, they want to feel that at the other end of all those wires there is an actual person that understood a connection was made, and there is the future of more engagement personally.

I know I am probably not revealing any great truth you haven’t heard about before in Social Network Marketing 101, but something in it all jumped out at me today, when it came to the true value of someone in Product Marketing. While skills and experience are important, should we also perhaps consider the value that individual has with their own social network when considering them for a role, their network if cared for, could yield immediate results when someone comes on board. I am not saying that a person with a great social network has an army of brainless followers who will follow anything that is posted, but what they do have is an immediate network of people that actively want to engage and are interested in what the said person is doing in their lives.

Do we now need to start considering Social Reach as a key component in certain roles when hiring people, should recruiters consider the number of followers someone has on Twitter, or LinkedIn or Google+ when short-listing candidates. Certainly services like Klout are going in this direction, trying to sum it all up as a Klout score, but is it a trusted tool which people can actively use in the hiring process or just a fun tool to do a vanity check.

I had just finished reading a great book on how individuals can build and maintain valuable networks via Twitter called “The Twitter Effect: How to increase your follower count and gain exposure on Twitter” by Eric Bieller. Its a really great and easy read, but gives amazing insights and guidance on the path to creating networks that are real for people. Eric talked about using services like Klout to measure the impact of one’s network that they were building. If you are interested in building a successful network through Twitter then this is a must read.

At the end of the day, your network goes with you, not with the company you work for, so maintaining your social brand, while beneficial for your current role, could also be the key differentiator in the next.