Let me start by borrowing from the Jeff Foxworthy school of self-inquiry -- and, no, I am not referring to 'Are you smarter than a fifth grader?'
...The number of people you follow on Twitter outnumbers those following you 10:1.
...You have 1,000+ contacts on LinkedIn but only 1 in 10 are people you've actually met or worked with.
...You've uploaded hundreds of photos to Flickr, have Dugg dozens of articles or websites on Digg, etc. but have never commented on anyone else's photos or Diggs.
...You hide behind aliases like "Digital Pimp," "Ninja0539," or "XYZcoceo" and it's not clear from your profile who you are, where you live or what you do.
I think you get the idea. Social media is just like one big cocktail party, and there will always be people who think that just showing up is the measure of success. People who are more interested in how they're being perceived than in learning about others. Or who are more concerned with getting their message across than in receiving anyone else's.
Those who thrive on the cocktail circuit are those that know how to work the room, start conversations and make connections. In fact, before they showed up, these savvy people have researched who's attending the event and pinpointed the individuals or types of individuals they hope to meet. They then proceed to seek those people out at the event and leave the encounter with enough information and mutual interest to continue the dialogue.
Social media might initiallly depend on 'what you know,' but before long, your success with it turns on 'who you know.' And, of course, who knows you.
So if you are confused about social media and want to gain some insight on making more productive social connections -- in person or online -- before you read a bunch of thought-leadershippy talk on social media, check out the advice of Keith Ferrazzi in his best-seller "Never Eat Alone." It's a never-goes-out-of-style guide to relationship building in general. Ferrazzi borders on fanatical about networking best practices, so even if you only go for about 60% of what he recommends, you'll be vastly better off.For Millennials and others who struggle with making the most from their social media connections, this is a recommended real-world read for better social-media-world results. And for the rest of us, it's a good reminder that the only thing really new about social media is the technology that makes it possible.