A step back from online participation to look at other paths

February 19, 2009 by Jared Goralnick

Factory It’s easy to see Twitter and blogging as necessary ingredients to getting a message out, building thought leadership, or acquiring customers.  There are thousands of examples of this.

But I think there are just as many examples of success without transparency or online participation.  Before your diet consists solely of the 2.0 Kool-Aid, it’s worth thinking it through.

Participating and writing is competitive and difficult.  For my own objectives, it’s generally cost-effective and rewarding.  But there are merits to closed systems and old fashioned communication (i.e., between two people…not between you and the world).  I think that it’s naive to overlook techniques that have long worked.

No, I didn’t just sit down with my grandfather to talk about marketing a shoe factory in the 1950s.  Amongst my friends that are building successful web applications, getting funding and finding users, I’m seeing this approach, as well.

They’re staying current on the technology that’s necessary for them to create top quality products, but they’re not involved in the social aspect online.  They’re reaching out directly to the most relevant people, and they’re getting together with them.  They’re building relationships in ways that suit their personality and don’t consume them…and they’re making an impact.

They have an approach that works for them.  An approach that seems antiquated but is far from.  We don’t all need a “tribe,” we don’t all need to be publishers.  We can do this in our own way.

We just need to know what we’re doing.  We need to know who we are, and if we have to get a message out, we need to have some kind of plan.

Sometimes that plan may be to write carefully thought-out letters to exactly who you want to reach.  Sometimes it’s keeping Twitter open all day long with dozens of keywords that you’re monitoring.  But if this online stuff starts to irk you, don’t do what’s trendy, do what’s right for you.  There isn’t one path.

Flickr photo credit: wili_hybrid

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18 Responses to “A step back from online participation to look at other paths”

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  1. technosailor (Aaron Brazell)

    @technotheory knocks it dead re: getting real about online participation. Even if he does get meta about twiiter. ;) http://is.gd/k8qT


  1. Hallakol

    Absolutely agree. Each person or company must take the path that works for them / their message. A combo of SM & real life interaction seems to me like the most obvious and common way.

  2. Dan Markovitz


    Thanks for this post. In the past few months I’ve been dipping my toe into the social media water and finding that (1) it’s not a great psychological fit, and (2) it can rapidly become an enormous time sink, consuming so much of my day that I don’t get any other work done.

    You’ve reminded me that there are other avenues — and coming from you, a bona fide tech guy, that means a lot.

  3. Ryan Miller

    I would agree that constant monitoring of SM isn’t for everyone, but that its a great place to start. I don’t know of a better way to plug in to a worldwide community of experts and amateurs to get feedback and bounce ideas off of. That’s of course speaking from someone who has ‘drank the Kool-Aid’.

    Its a great start, but I agree that ‘real life’ has its place too. There’s no substitute for picking your battles and having a plan. And I think that’s what you’re arguing for – having a goal and a plan. Social media is NOT the plan, but its a tool that can help you make your plans a reality.


  4. Jared Goralnick

    Hallokol, sounds like you’ve found a good combination : ).

    Dan, I think the real balance is knowing what’s out there so one can make an informed decision. Depending on one’s target audience and desired skills, the social media community may or may not provide comparable value to the old way of doing things. That being said, I’m glad to know you…and that wouldn’t have happened without this world! I think the most important thing is to know what your goals are and then figuring out if you’re achieving them. Social media without direction is a total waste of time (unless that’s the point). I get real value out of it, but much of my approach involves a lot of face to face and one on one.

    Ryan, amen–social media is just one tool. Unfortunately one that’s value comes from its breadth (which takes time) as much as its depth. But a powerful tool!

  5. Lydia Sugarman

    Amen, Jared! One strategy I’ve long used and strongly recommend to people is to pick up the phone and call people. This immediate and real connection has delivered great results for me in new business, new friends, stronger ties. This year I’ve committed to hand writing more notes to people. I keep nice stationery and real stamps on my desk so I have no excuse not to do it immediately.

    I love spending time on select social media sites, but I limit my memberships and let people know. I would posit that rather than “‘real life” has its place”, we should shift our thinking to “‘social media” has its place in our very real lives.”

    In the end, as you say, it’s all about balance as it is in every other facet of our lives. I think those of us who are on the bleeding edge of new technology adoption need to remind ourselves of that more often.


  6. Jed Wood

    Now you have me curious- can you share some of these cases in point?

  7. Hillel

    Ha! I proposed a session at IgniteBaltimore(.com) on “Networking ABCs”. Yup! Good ole’ basic face-to-face networking of the meet-space kind. Let’s see if it gets any traction. After all, even if *you* (3rd person) are all Web 2.0′d out, doesn’t mean your audience or potential word-of-mouth emissaries are!

  8. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks, Lydia, you’ve done a better job than me at outlining how that balance looks. I wish I got more hand-written cards…we’d all be happier people.

    Jed, the gist is that some of my friends just reach out to the people they’re looking to get in touch with…and they let their work (rather than their social proof) and whatever they wrote speak for itself. When they aim high, sometimes it actually works. And sometimes it’s a matter of being out networking in the real world. The actual specifics are actually pretty impressive–it’s amazing what’s possible to be accomplished and the relationships it’s possible to build even primarily from a distance and without social media.

    Hillel, that’d be an interesting Ignite topic… it’s funny to me how my take on real world networking has changed a lot because of social media. Its place is more complementary than the end-all be-all, but that’s I guess a topic for another day. In the mean time, good luck with the Ignite thing!

  9. Jed Wood

    Perhaps you’re intentionally being leaving out the details, but I’m interested in the specifics: what are the companies? What were the results? I run a few web businesses and have done very little in terms of marketing. I’d love to get some ideas and inspiration!

  10. Lydia Sugarman

    No one’s leaving out details, intentionally or otherwise. The details are there in the original blog post and comments if you take the time to absorb what you’re reading. It’s about cultivating more visceral connections with people, however you may choose to do that.

  11. Jed Wood

    Sorry for not communicating clearly here. I’ve been on a long hiatus from reading and commenting on blogs, and apparently it shows. :)

    Lemme try one more time. Jared originally wrote:

    Amongst my friends that are building successful web applications, getting funding and finding users, I’m seeing this approach, as well.

    Which successful web apps are you referring to?

    Those are the details that are missing, intentionally or otherwise. :)

    Make sense?

  12. Jared Goralnick

    No worries, Lydia/Jed. Yes, I did intentionally leave out names of the companies and people involved. It was actually a phone call that morning from one of the unnamed parties that prompted me to write this post.

    If a friend of mine is on the verge of a pretty big opportunity and asks me for advice, far be it for me to share the names. Don’t worry, knowing who’s involved doesn’t affect the article–just trust me that you’d like to be in the position of my friend :-).

  13. MLDina

    I’m an avid social networker- but I think social networking can be just as effective in person as it can be online. Depending on your goal, chatting in person over lunch can work much better than sending a tweet to a group.

  14. Richard Coughlan


    I recently discovered your blog via Twitter. I wanted to express my appreciation for your post. I spend most of my days with 28-35 year old MBA students, some of whom have lost the appreciation (or never developed it) for the kind of interaction you discuss in this post. I’ve forwarded it to several of them already. I look forward to following your work more closely in the future.


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