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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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