Social Networks & Social Media Marketing: The Chicken or the Egg?

I find it curious that there are many “experts” of social media marketing and social networking that never seem to make the connection between the two.  It makes me wonder if I am missing something.

I have read posts by the very knowledgeable Chris Brogan which have likened the development of your social network to a secret fight club, and pointed out a successful network is one made of real people, with real connections. There is never a mention of how to apply these networks of people to a social media marketing endeavor.

I have also read Erik Qualman’s post, Be Stubborn With Your Social Media Vision, but Flexible With Your Plan on SearchEngineWatch.com, who speaks to the process of developing a vision of social media marketing that is not wavering and allowing the social media plan to be flexible.  There is never a mention of the development of a social network.

Now, I understand that developing a social network is part of a social media marketing plan. I also understand that the reasons for developing a social network are not dependant on continuation to execution of a social media marketing plan. Since a social media marketing plan is dependent on a robust social network, why do we consistently see people explaining  the importance of the social media marketing vision and plan, but never any reference to the acquisition of a robust social network for business?

Sure, we have the tools.  Sure, we have the bloggers.  Sure, we have the “experts”.  Sure, we have opinions galore.

But in the spirit of  “which came first, the chicken or the egg,” the question for practical application remains:

Which comes first:  The network or the plan?

As I stated in a comment to Erik’s post, “For a company who is embarking on social media marketing for the first time, which comes first… the network or the plan? If you do not have an already recognizable brand, like Pepsi, it seems as if the establishment of the network may be a bigger key than the initial plan, since one should develop a network of individuals. ”

Every social media marketer would love to start out with a pre-established list of devoted followers and subscribers.  That would make the job easy.  But we don’t.  We have the business owners who are sold on the concept of social media marketing.  They already know their vision:  Brand Awareness or Increase Sales or the popular Increase Readership To Our Main Site.  When it comes to the application of a plan to meet those visions, we are returned to the base level of a hierarchy of social media, which is the network.  A network requires participation from individuals.  A network requires interaction from people.  A social network is people… helping people.  It requires a fostering of relationships on a one to one basis.  Only after you have established a strong network of connections you can trust and rely on can you then successfully convey messages that will spread virally.

With all of this in mind, I invite others to speak up and tell me your thoughts and experiences.  I am not looking for the wrong way of doing things, like some sort of program that will get me 2000 Twitter followers in a day.  I want to go about building my social network the correct way, rich with people I can call my friends and vice versa.  Then I want to apply that knowledge to help others get connected and build their own social network of people.

In the end, the people are the thing.  People make a network happen.  Without them, no social media marketing plan can be effective. So can we please start talking about how to create and foster a social network and stop trying to monetize everything?

In regards to the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg…  current social media thought seems to be that it does not matter, as long as it is a Trending Topic on Twitter.  But that get us no closer to answering the question.

C’mon folks…  It’s about PEOPLE.

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  1. Linda Bateman says

    Actually, in this realm I DO! Sheesh!

    I will trade my 1972 Jim Plunkett Rookie Bgs Bccg 10 football card OR my princess tiara for a straight answer…

    Since I posted this blog , I have had conversations focused on the REASONS for a social network and how do go about building a network with limited time resources, so your posts of yesterday and today, http://www.chrisbrogan.com/laying-out-your-onli… and http://www.chrisbrogan.com/five-tasks-in-the-mo…, were perfectly timed.

    Skilled veterans of social networking roll their eyes when new folks come on the scene ask “how to” questions. Or we are given an answer of “Buy my Book,” or “I had to learn it myself… you should too.” I just want to avoid the common pitfalls and create a strong social network of peers for great communication and to be on the forefront of what's happening in the world. Apparently, there are others out there just like me, although I've been told all my life I was an original princess.

    It is nice to see some of the “how to” posts and the “this is how I do it” posts finally begin to surface.

    There is hope.

    Thanks, Chris

  2. Chris Brogan says

    From my perspective, I'm a big fan of “be there before the sale.” Now, it depends. If I'm suddenly put in the business of selling roofing tiles, I might not hang out on Twitter to get that done. But beyond that, I like the concept of being in an environment, becoming known as a person with perspectives and opinions, and then, if I have something to sell, I'd approach it openly and honestly.

    So, I guess my answer is: the network.

    But that's not accurate for MOST marketers, because they're in the business of selling (or aiding the sales process). If that's the case, then maybe you'd start by picking your plan, deciding which (if any) social network might hold the best promise, and test that theory a bit.

    Don't you hate “depends” answers?

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