Wired magazine recently reported how some businesses are using an applicant’s Klout score as a criteria for employment.
Much as Google’s search engine attempts to rank the relevance of every web page, Klout—a three-year-old startup based in San Francisco—is on a mission to rank the influence of every person online. Its algorithms comb through social media data: If you have a public account with Twitter, which makes updates available for anyone to read, you have a Klout score, whether you know it or not (unless you actively opt out on Klout’s website). You can supplement that score by letting Klout link to harder-to-access accounts, like those on Google+, Facebook, or LinkedIn. The scores are calculated using variables that can include number of followers, frequency of updates, the Klout scores of your friends and followers, and the number of likes, retweets, and shares that your updates receive. High-scoring Klout users can qualify for Klout Perks, free goodies from companies hoping to garner some influential praise.
In social media, numbers matter. Facebook Friends, Tweeps, LinkedIn Connections, Google+ Circles, number of Shares / Tweets / Likes, Google Rank, etc., etc.
So what about the person who wants to go “deep”? They are not online simply to broadcast their books or business. They want to genuinely have a conversation, express themselves, and get to know and engage interesting people. To this person, Klout score is incidental.
- Going Wide — Number of Friends / Followers / Contacts
- Going Deep — Quality and Consistency of interaction
But where does this leave people who want to do both?
At some point, a trade-off seems necessary. Either go for a “wide” (yet more impersonal) online influence or go for a “deep” (yet more narrow) one. Opt to try to boost your social media influence or cede it in favor of building more substantial relationships.
The business consultants at Polka Dot Impressions define the difference between going wide and going deep in social media, and the give-and-take, this way:
1. If you go wide, are you willing to let your numbers drop? Going wide in social media means that you will be following, friending, connecting, etc. to more people than have followed, friended, or connected to you. …going wide will drop your numbers, and it’s impossible to read everything that everyone says when you are connected to a wide number of people.
2. If you go deep, are you willing to spend the time? Going deep in social media means that you spend more time on conversations, engagement, and interactions with those to whom you are connected. It means that you are actually reading what they have to say. This is where the real communication comes from, but growth is slower. Your numbers will increase, but they increase slowly – sometimes very slowly. It takes time to build relationships.
3. If you go wide, are you willing to be a small fish in a big pond? If you are reaching out for multiple new connections at once, going wide, you will likely be reaching out to bigger “accounts” and hoping to get noticed.
4. If you go deep, are you willing to talk about others and not yourself for a change? Having online conversations with others requires taking an interest in what they do, too. Going deep into relationships is two-way. You have to put aside your accolades and support others in theirs.
The question of Wide v. Deep poses an interesting dilemma for authors. On the one hand,
Writers need to reach MORE people.
On the other hand,
Writers need to REACH more people.
In one sense, the possibility of getting your name (and your book’s) before thousands of people is enticing. However, engaging those readers, connecting with real people, even developing relationships with them, can do wonders for an author. Not to mention, broaden her influence.
Then again, going “deep” with readers could be an incredible drain.
In summarizing the 2009 BEA convention, Janet Grant, literary agent from Books & Such (which also happens to represent me) distilled a workshop she attended entitled “Product Centric Publishing in a Community Centric World” presented by Mike Shatzkin. In What Does the Future Hold? one of the points Janet made was this:
Publishing widely to reach as broad an audience as possible will go away. In its place will be publishing “vertically”– reaching more deeply into a narrower audience.
Later, Janet goes on to summarize and expound on this “vertical publishing” concept:
The two key words to keep in mind as you eye the future are: “vertical” and “community.” You must understand yourself vertically and present yourself vertically (develop a web site designed to reach your community; collect emails from your community; create partnerships vertically). (emphasis mine)
So rather than trying to build a “broad audience,” you should “present yourself vertically,” identify your niche and dig in — develop friendships, support others’ efforts, familiarize yourself with the “language” of the community, and build a fellowship of readers / followers.
It makes a lot of sense, but it raises questions. Ideally, the author needs an online presence that is BOTH wide and DEEP, both HORIZONTAL and VERTICAL. But if having both is impossible, at least very difficult, which one should be chosen over the other?
QUESTION: Should authors aim to have BOTH a wide and a deep social media presence? Should we seek to Follow and Friend as many people as possible AND build relationships / community among these readers? Or is the author better off concentrating on her writing and web presence than trying to go “deep” or “vertical” with her readers?