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Do you remember being in Kindergarten, and living through the social dynamics of the playground?

Do you remember the kid whose clear goal it was to get people to like him? Maybe they had cool toys, or made up stories about a rich uncle, or in some pretty straightforward way went around just saying “hey – like me!” We all knew the kid in question – but was there a real friendship there?

In contrast – do you remember the kids who were genuinely interesting, or had an interesting hobby? Those kids didn’t always have the largest groups of friends – but generally the friends they had were stronger – held more tightly together – and backed each other up more.

And finally – do you notice any correlations between the playground from childhood and the current social media landscape?

Everyone from individuals on Facebook to large corporations are doing everything they can to get numbers. Numbers which look good on paper. But numbers which – in and of themselves – are nearly meaningless without deep connections.

Some go deeper – building connections as experts or as glitterati. But for every Jakob Nielsen or Perez Hilton, there are thousands of bloggers and social media experts re-posting content for numbers and telling you in no uncertain terms how useful, important, or interesting they are.

Instinctively – people can generally tell the real article. And – at least at this point – we can still tell a real relationship (where we are getting something meaningful out of the connection) from a contrived relationship where someone is telling us how much value we are getting out of it.

And, often, connections might get a name in front of eyes with slightly more regularity. But with everyone doing it, each doing our best to jump in on the new trend to ride the wave – we’re creating a cacophony in which messages are easily lost as we keep looking for the newest sparkly thing to hold our attention for 15 seconds.

Ultimately – you might have a million followers because you get your name out – but how many of those people are actually paying close attention? And how many are on the roster because they didn’t undo the connection after they got the coupon, read the article, or laughed at the amusing picture?

If what you’re looking for is a number, then hits are all you need.
Engaged > hooked > ignored > moving on.

But if what you need is ongoing attention, or collaboration, or heaven forbid – loyalty – then deeper conversation is going to be needed.

You can be loud simply by picking up a megaphone. But if there isn’t value to the product or connection you are broadcasting – people are getting awfully good at filtering noise out.

So – where do we go from here? Do we trust the old adage of “quality will out,” or do we just move into the fray and try to help steer it somewhere better? I will be exploring these questions, but good god – I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this.