Social Relationships Are More Important Than Social Networks

Social networks existed before Twitter or Facebook. Social networks existed before the Internet or the telephone. Your online followers only make up a part of your total social network. What you have to consider is how many people you actually have a relationship with, both online and offline. This is known as your social relationship ratio. To see what your social relationships ratio might be, run one of these three experiments on yourself:

EXPERIMENT #1: The Memory Test

  1. On a sheet of paper, write down the first and last name of everyone you know without looking them up. And please don’t memorize your list ahead of time.
  2. Now, for each person, write down any birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, or online identities associated with these people from memory. You just need one data point to go with a person, not necessarily all data points.
  3. Eliminate any names where you didn’t remember any secondary information, and tally the total remaining people.
  4. Find out the total number of followers. Be sure to eliminate duplicates.
  5. Divide the number from Step 3 by the number in Step 4 (Step 3/Step 4). This percentage represents the number of people in your social network that you actually have a social relationship with. So if you have one thousand people in your social network, but you can only remember 100, you have a social relationship ratio of 10% (100/1000 = 0.10).

EXPERIMENT #2: The Greeting Card Test

This one is easy, and you may look up this information if you’d like. Make a list of all the people you would mail a paper greeting card for either their birthdays, anniversaries, or for holidays. You have to make a few assumptions in order for this experiment to be valid. You have to assume you will actually buy an actual card for real people, spending real dollars for postage for each card, and you will have your real return address written on it. Divide that number by the total people in your social network, and you end up with your social relationship ratio.

EXPERIMENT #3: The Phone Call Test

Just like Experiment #2, make a list of all the people you would be willing to have a 10 minute phone conversation with; the reason for the call is irrelevant. Again, divide this by the total number of people in your social network. For this experiment to be valid, you have to assume you’ll be using up actual minutes, paying actual long distance charges, NOT using Skype, and you will be speaking for 10 uninterrupted minutes to a real person.

Even though the numbers will vary from each experiment, these experiments should shed some light on the social relationships you maintain versus the total number of people within your social network. For some of you, this number may represent your core group of friends.  For businesses, this number may represent loyal customers.  According to Dunbar’s Number, your actual social relationships should top out at about 150 people. Yours might be more, or it might be less. It’s not a competition so don’t worry if you have less than 150 in your social relationship circle.

It’s one thing to pull off an Ashton Kutcher, and get a million followers on Twitter. It’s another to actually maintain meaningful relationships with a million followers. Rather than only focusing on increasing your number of followers, try focusing more on developing social relationships instead.

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