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How you can improve the quality of your connections by being curious.

Imagine having a network of people stretching around the globe who would be happy to support you and help you achieve your personal and professional goals. What could you achieve? Which dreams could you make come true?

You probably didn’t join Twitter to realise your dreams; maybe you came because you wanted a question answered, perhaps because you wanted to see what all the fuss is about or maybe because you wanted to have a voice and you wanted to change the world.

The reason why you are here doesn’t matter. You ARE here, and you are engaging and you have made connections.

What’s in a number?

One thing that many people become obsessed with when they join a social media platform is the numbers, the data and the statistics. You can see how many people responded to you, liked you or retweeted you, and it is addictive. Somehow there is nothing more satisfying than clicking on a button that shows in graph format your popularity this week compared to last week and the numbers have increased. Equally, there can be nothing more upsetting than seeing those numbers decline.

These are just numbers and although they have some significance if you are trying to connect and sell something, they don’t tell you the true story of your network.

Who do you love?

The power of Twitter isn’t in the numbers; it is in the people. Yes, it makes us feel good to have lots of followers. Yes, it may appear to give us status, authority and maybe, dare I say it, “celebrity.” Yes, we can look at the numbers and feel loved. But the numbers are people and truly loving relationships are mutual. So, who do you love?

Whose tweets engage you? Who makes you smile? Who intrigues you? Who do you love to follow?

Once you know who you love, at least on the surface, take the time to discover things about them. Truly follow them, not just their latest tweets, go back through their timeline a little, what do they tweet about that you might have missed, what do they post on their blog.

Lurking not stalking.

Lurking and stalking are different. A lurker watches, unseen, they are waiting for something to happen before they act. A stalker is more intrusive, they are rooting out secrets to gain some sort of power over the person they are watching. Lurking is perfectly OK. Stalking isn’t.

How curious are you?

Curious people are active, they have a desire to understand, to try and to push and probe at the boundaries of whatever they find interesting. If you are curious about the people in your network you will stir them into action. They will either respond to your curiosity positively or they will shut you out. The people who respond are the people that you will connect with more deeply. They are the people who will make a difference to you and your life.

How often do you ask yourself what drives someone to do what they do? To say what they say? You don’t need to interrogate them to get these answers, simple questioning, challenging and probing for more information is enough.

Most people love it when others pay them attention, as long as it is the right sort of attention. By being curious you will discover the things that you have in common and also the differences that you need to celebrate. You will discover people who belong in your tribe.

Connection takes time.

Reading some people’s tweets can be intimidating. They appear to be achieving so much. Apart from taking everything with a pinch of salt, also consider the time they have had to make the connections that are proving so useful to them now. You can do the same, in time as long as you make connections of high quality and don’t chase the numbers – not everyone is in your tribe and nor should they be.

Scott Beale’s Party

I am stealing this story from Seth Godin, with no apologies because I love it. Scott is a business impresario who has built up a following and has made connections. In 2008 he was waiting to get into the Google Party after a conference and got fed up. He decided to go to a nearby deserted bar, where he rearranged the tables in the back and tweeted a message. “Alta Vista Party at Ginger Man.” Within minutes people had arrived, within the hour there was a queue out the door.

This happened, not because he had a lot of followers on Twitter; this was the tool for the engagement. It happened because Scott had earned the respect of the people who followed him; he had connected with them. The party occurred not in minutes, but in years.

Why should you care?

Curiosity and connection are essential. When combined, you discover how you can support others. When you help others, they will assist you. Remember your hopes and dreams; the things you want to achieve? You can’t do that alone. No one can. You need the permission, the support and the connections of others.

Invest your time in the people around you, the people who are in your tribe, and they will repay that investment.

Why not you? Why not now?

Connecting has never been easier, many of the barriers we had to find the people who are in your tribe have gone. Without those barriers, why not start connecting more deeply?

You don’t need permission to start connecting, you just need to start. Twitter is a huge universe of people. You are not alone. Reach out and discover who else is there, who else is ready to truly connect? Who else will collaborate with you? will support you? Will accept your help? Who can you achieve your dreams with?

You have something to offer to someone, what are you waiting for?

I am afraid of getting hurt

Yes, there will be some people who reject you. Yes, there will some people who are out for themselves. And, yes, there some people who are pretending to be something else. Your curiosity will expose them, your curiosity will show you who they are. Don’t fear them, ignore them, block them, mute them and call them out when needed. They are not your tribe.

You will occasionally make mistakes, mistype be misunderstood or say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Social media is full of outrage, often by people being offended on behalf of others, and there will occasionally be horrible verbal attacks by groups of people who use social media as a platform for their collective outrage. They are not your tribe and probably never will be. Don’t be like them.

Your tribe are those who will support you, challenge you respectfully both publicly and in private (as appropriate) but most importantly, genuinely engage with you. This group of connections is far more rewarding and worth the risks associated with meeting anyone new online. Just be aware of the risks and share only what you are comfortable with, anything that makes you feel uncomfortable should be challenged and if necessary reported. Your network will support you if this happens.

What, exactly, should you do now?

You’ve made it to the end of quite a long blog, you’ll notice that there are no checklists, no “step by step” guide, and that’s kind of the point. I don’t know what drives you, I don’t know if you are in my tribe or not. I can’t tell you “exactly” what to do.

There are millions of people on Twitter, you just need to be curious and find the people who will make your life richer. It is a choice. You can choose to connect more deeply, you can choose to be curious, you can choose to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

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