Last December, I had the opportunity to interact at a webinar with Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, the authors of Trust Agents. This book has been a New York Times Bestseller for months, and I can tell you from my subsequent contact with them that both Chris and Julien are stand-up guys who say what they mean, mean what they say, and in general seem to be about as trustworthy as authors with an agenda to push can be.

I genuinely mean that as a compliment. It sounds measured, right? That’s today’s subject. On his website, Chris Brogan has written a great piece on the execution of social media. Ostensibly, it’s about scaling, but I see something else, and I’m disturbed.

Chris is now doing most of his formal preaching to larger business and social groups. That’s fine, of course, it’s his market and where he makes his living. At the same time, though, Chris’ Twitter Account is replete with quick messages like “Do Good Things“. It’s the kind of woo-woo rah-rah that we’re most used to hearing from the Tony Robbins’ of the world, and while it has a place (and Twitter sure is a great place for such drivel), it feels like a disconnect.

Allow me to repeat: this isn’t an attack on Chris Brogan. I think Chris is one of new media’s real stars and deserves his success. But I’m reminded of one of the things that Chris and Julien said at that event last year, and that I’ve told my own clients for a very long time, too: there’s a top end to the number of people (relationships) you can manage. Most experts, including Chris Brogan, agree that the number is somewhere around 150.

When you get to a certain size, you need more people to manage your operations. Let’s assume that when a large company gets serious about social networking and social media they figure out that there are going to be “x” number of potential customer touches per day in the social networking space, allot a certain number of minutes per interaction, and decide from there how big a staff needs to be created to handle the company’s social  activities. That’s a start, and there might even be some variant on the “150 people theme” that we can apply. But . . . when it’s just a formula, hasn’t your social networking become nothing more than that rah-rah stuff? The engagement is . . . false. In truth, it’s not social at all; it’s practically anti-social.

Bring it back down to a more personal, more manageable level: social networking, like all business change, doesn’t just happen. You need to plan, to need contingency options in place, and then you need to be ready to make new, unexpected, and even unwelcome changes on an ongoing basis. Social networking, at the end of the day, is a lot like being someone’s friend.

Or customer service. But the term can’t be a oxymoron.

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