Connections are great; conversations are even better

As my number of friends and followers on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have grown exponentially over the past year, I’ve found myself more connected than ever. On the other hand, I’ve found that I’ve lost touch with some of my original online friends.

When I started on Twitter, for example, I used to have regular conversations with folks from around the United States and even overseas. My wife, Jessi, commented on this in a blog post she recently wrote about this topic, noting how she got started on Twitter, in part, because of me:

“He showed me examples of new friends he had made in places such as Hawaii, England, Florida and more. They’d developed a relationship and were constantly commenting on each other’s tweets and getting “involved” in each other’s lives, even though they lived so far apart and had never met.”

One of these folks was Anna Hill, who lives in the United Kingdom. We’d share stories about what was going on in our lives and wish each other well on projects we were working on. It was nothing deep, but there was some nice banter involved and it was good to feel connected to someone so far away. The problem is, my first few twigs of social networking have turned into a forest. That means Anna and I don’t chat like we used to, other than the occasional, “Hi, hope all is well.” At least we’re doing something to stay in touch though. I’d hate for my Twitter experience to become too much about the forest and not enough about the trees within.

When I read Jessi’s blog post, I told her that she shouldn’t feel like she’s alone, because I’d been thinking lately about how connections are great but conversations are even better.

Friend and fellow blogger Jess Knott recently blogged about social media and connecting with folks because she’s been trying to figure out Google Buzz. She used a quote from me where I talked about using Buzz more intimately than services like Twitter. She says it changed her thoughts about Buzz, noting:

…perhaps I’m so used to the swirling, tumultuous action of Twitter that I’ve forgotten that social media can be effective on a small scale as well.

One of the key things to getting the most out of social media is to figure out what works best for you. My wife says she has ended up talking mostly to the folks in our town even though she started out intending to connect with a much broader network. But that’s OK. The group she’s chatting with is filled with  people whom she probably would not have such a close connection with if not for social networking. They’re from across town instead of across the country, but they’re still a great network of people and we’re proud to call them our “friends” online and our friends in real life as well.

There’s room in social media for all kinds of social networking. That includes long-distance professional collaboration and local conversations with friends to coordinate weekend activities. Just keep in mind that your social circle is no longer limited to your geographic land area, but to the geography of the Internet. That means your social circle isn’t just a circle around you, it’s a circle that encompasses the Earth.

I heard Tara Hunt speak at the Public Relations Society of America Southwest District Conference in Oklahoma City last week. I was pleased to see people being drawn to her message of never forgetting that social media is just a tool and you have to stay people-centric in your thoughts and actions.

So go on, network and make friends. Gather followers like you can never have too many. Moreover, treasure every one of those connections for what they offer, large or small, long-distance or local. Just try to remember that the point of social media and social networking is being social. Don’t forget that even the largest forests are made up  of many individual trees. Trees like Jessi Adler, Jess Knott, Tara Hunt and Anna Hill. Trees that need tending occasionally, even if it’s just a friendly, “Hi, hope all is well.”

(Photo courtesy of Anita363’s Flickr stream.)