Increasing your “social surface area”

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“Lucky people increase their odds of chance encounters or experiences by interacting with a large number of people”
Peter Sims in Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

In social media, you need to go out and read and post. They won’t come to you. Its kind of like going back to the Pigeon Holes. And when you do go out, please ensure you keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t restrict yourselves to your own interest areas/niches.

While it is the easy thing to do, to search about topics that interest us, and interact with the people who share those interests, probably as a response to the problem of ‘friending’ after you are 30, one should widen the scope. (Yeah, I know the proper grammar is ‘making friends’ but its the Facebook age! And you should really read that NYT article I have linked if you are above 30 years and find it difficult to make BFF, sorry, thick friends like how you could while in college/univ/school. I will wait for you to return back to my blog post.)

One reason why you should not limit your circles is because of the danger of group think, and in extreme cases, cultism. I had written about this three years ago but it still holds good. (Maybe it is a good time for you to read that old article. Sorry if you are being sent away again. But I am a patient blogger, I will wait for you to return.)



But the other advantage of widening your interactions is that increases your “social surface area”, and am sure most of you remember enough of your high school science to remember that chemical reactions happen better, faster when surface area is more. 😉

Social media lets you increase the number of people you are instantly connected with, build relationships, sustain them too. (But apparently still governed by Dunbar’s numbers – 150, 500 & 1500 corresponding to close friends/relations, acquaintances and people whose face we can recognize.) But mere numbers are not enough, the network structures matter too. And it is in this context that having connections with varied people is beneficial.

Call it luck or call it serendipity, as is in vogue now. Point is it helps you surface interesting information and resources that you might not have found otherwise, had you stayed within your niches.

Breaking out of our comfort zone is very important. But very difficult too. And being able to know what the 50 shades of grey are at the same time as grokking Great Gatsby is gross and yet allows you to hold wide ranging conversations.

When I gained notoriety in the world outside my workplace and gained visibility as a thought leader in the Social CRM and Social Business circles, I was helped by the fact that I was someone who was connected in the open source communities, with social media ‘gurus’, CRM experts, and many other groups. A few of them at loggerheads. This let me look at issues from multiple perspectives, and at the same time allowed me to be discovered by influential industry analysts.

I am connected to a few wildlife enthusiasts who go into the Melagiris Forests (Hosur Forest Division) to lay camera traps. I am getting initiated into these activities. I am connected to a few Montessorians, I attended many sessions by the Montessori trainers. I took active part in the formation of the villa owner’s association in the community I live in. I am a primary judge at the global event CRM Idol. I am connected to you all. I am of course connected to my immediate teams at work place. Do you think I have variety?



Similarly, being active in multiple social networks also helps you discover newer people.But most people tend to be in all your social networks. Thanks to the ease of adding friends from other services. This is understandable from the service provider’s perspective since this sets in motion the Metcalf Law, also called the network effect; which is, the more people you are connected to via the service, the more useful the service becomes. But it only means that you are now porting your narrow network everywhere rather than finding new friends. And stopping serendipity to help you.

What does your social surface area look like? Do you believe you need to increase it or do you belong to those company executives who are afraid of Social Media?

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