Thursday, July 17, 2008

Social Networking for the Anti-Social

Not too long ago, I was working with a student, and after a few of our meetings about social networking, he admitted to me that he just didn’t like it. He wasn’t interested. He didn’t like having to interact with people, and he thought that blogging in general and reading blogs especially was a complete waste of time. He didn’t see any benefit in it at all.

Well, there are, of course, lots of benefits to social networking as an internet entrepreneur. You get to interact with your customers, and you get to find and draw in new customers. You get to see what’s happening in your industry on a constant basis, and you get to put your finger on that pulse. You establish yourself as an expert, an authority, a name that people respect and will come to for answers.

But what I think was really bugging him was that he was probably more the loner type, who enjoys being quiet by himself.

But that got me to thinking. How would a person engage in the activity of social networking if they fundamentally don’t like being social? To disconnect from it isn’t an option. It’s becoming more and more a core part of internet marketing. If you don’t do it, you miss out on the incredible amounts of traffic, links, and ranking that it can bring you. Running an online business without it is very much like trying to run a marathon with a limp. You can do it, but it’ll hurt, and you definitely won’t win.

Here are some thoughts:

1. If You Think it’s Boring, You Just Haven’t Found Your Good Bits.

A story: A few years ago, my brother-in-law came over. At the time, he was a card-carrying technophobe. His passion, for example, was playing authentic roots folk music on the banjo and the concertina. He barely tolerated the technology of the CD, as long as it was playing his favorite string band. He thought the internet was a stupid waste of time. Even though it was hard for me to argue against that point, considering much of my own vapid browsing, I kind of took it on myself as a challenge to bring him into the 21rst century. I knew that dragging him kicking and screaming to the ‘net wouldn’t help. I had to tease him to it.

So, this one particular day he came over, and I said, “Hey, come look at this.” I had done a Google search for “concertina”. That caught his interest. He had never seen a website about concertinas before.

“Can you search for…” and he told me the name of some concertina maker. “Of course!” The long story short is that he spent the next hour and a half in front of my computer clicking around folk music websites that he’d never known had existed. Finally, my sister had to pry him away from the chair to get him to go home.

Now, he’s an expert on youtube, and fills his iPod with folk music from iTunes.

My point is that I’ve learned that most people who think the internet is dull and pointless do so simply because they’ve never found anything they consider interesting on it. Once you find what grabs you, then it has value. So, if you think that blogging is a waste of time, it might be because you haven’t found the right blogs yet.

Which leads me to my next point:

2. 99% of the Internet is Irrelevant. Focus on the Relevant.

Some folks worry that they are missing out on something if they don’t look at everything that appears to them. If they miss one email or spam, or if they don’t check out that website that someone told them about, their life will be somehow diminished.

Not so.

If it doesn’t have anything to do with your interests, your life, or especially your business, it’s OK to ignore it. Sometimes it’s good to have a general awareness of life beyond your circle, it’s true. Read the news, stay aware. But don’t drown yourself in a vast ocean of meaningless information, either.

It’s OK to click away, and the Delete button is there for a reason.

3. Words is Where it’s At

There are many who say they don’t like to read or write. Unfortunately, that’s just a part of life on the ‘net. Yes, it’s full of cool visuals, graphics, and video. Still, however, it’s a text-driven medium. You read your emails, you read web pages and blogs. You communicate with your customers via the written word. It’s vital.

Some people still struggle with typing and the keyboard. This can be a real obstacle. While there are good type tutor programs, the best way to learn is simply practicing. Write something at the keyboard every day, and you’ll surprise yourself how little time it takes to learn.

4. Social Networking is a Tool to Bring Traffic and Links

Some guys like to go shopping in hardware stores. I don’t. Some guys look at a saw or a wrench and see a way to have fun and relax. I see a growing list of projects that I have yet to finish. It’s not relaxing to me, it’s more stressful.

The hammer isn’t what stresses me, it’s the project that I don’t like. But I also realize that I want the project done. So, I can either take the hammer and use it to complete the project, or I can hire someone to use his hammer and finish it for me. Either way, someone’s gonna use a hammer.

Social networking is the same way. If you don’t like to use it, I hope you realize that it’s important that it be done. While it IS possible to hire someone else to do it for you, it’s also very likely that most internet startups don’t have that kind of budget. So, because I don’t have the money to hire someone to build my deck, I have to pick up the hammer. In the same way, a beginning internet entrepreneur still needs to learn how to use the social networking sites.

5. The Internet is the Most Social Place for Anti-Socials

Finally, when you think about it, is there a better place for loners than the internet? All of the social interaction is via your internet connection. You don’t have to worry about being judged face-to-face. You can relax in your own space, your own home office, and just interact. You can set up links, set up connections, and all on your own terms, at your own pace. It’s a more safe way to break out of your shell.

Remember that it’s critical that visitors come to your site, and the best way to do that is to go out and invite them.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.


  1. Interesting points. Enjoyed reading this piece.