Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Engagement vs. Serendipity

Earlier this morning, my Twitter friend, Michael Calienes who is also the co-founder of The Conversation Factory, tweeted out a clip he did on video social network, 12 Seconds. You can watch for yourself but for those of you that prefer the written word, Michael's question was "What if over the next couple of weeks you un-followed everyone who's never engaged with you on Twitter?"

What I liked about Michael's question was that it wasn't an "eff you" kind of statement but rather a thoughtful one. His follow up question was, "Do you think it would improve the relationships you have with the people who do engage with you?"

unfollowing the unengaged on 12seconds.tv

What I liked most about this quick video was that it got me thinking about engagement vs. serendipity, two things that are possible more now than ever via social media. The first concept, engagement, is obviously something that is high on any marketer's priority list. The second, serendipity, is something that we love when it comes our way but rarely do we feel like we have much control over the phenomenon. To me, that is really the beauty of Twitter because it allows both to happen simultaneously.

But that's not what Michael asked in his clip this morning. He wanted to know would paring down on followers that are essentially "dead weight" allow us to spend more time with the people that matter. In essence, this is something that I think we all grapple with in life in general.

So here's my answer... as tempted as I am to pare down my 8,000+ followers, I never will. You know why? Because every day someone new who was in the list of "haven't previously engaged with" crops up and adds value to my life. There are a few personal examples of how this has helped here and here It's also been invaluable in my professional life helping me helping me drive leads, create partnerships, find podcast/blog interviewees, or even land speaking engagements.

What do you think? If you had your druthers, would you slim down the number of people you engaged with based on reciprocity? Or are you like me -- willing to roll the dice based on the possibility of what might be?


  1. excellent point mr. strout. you always make good ones. your response makes me think a little deeper about what "dead weight" means to me. perhaps over the next few months or years, we will all have to think harder about categorizing our on and offline relationships into smaller bits and pieces that will help guide us in prioritizing our interactions. despite it all, i think we both agree on the fact that we're all searching for relationships that are honest, and that we can care about. i look forward to exploring this much more. thanks for your post.

  2. Aaron, excellent points. You guys certainly got me thinking. Like Michael, I often struggle with trying to keep up with everyone's tweets. Certainly following fewer people will result in stronger relationships with those remaining. However, your point about the value of someone new really resonates with me. Each day someone new crops up and adds value to my overall Twitter experience. And that's what makes it all worthwhile.

  3. Completely agree with you. Part of the fun - and value - of Twitter is in those serendipitous finds/"engagements." I'm a big believer in quality over quantity in general, but Twitter is a different beast.

  4. Michael - thank you for being my muse on this particular post. You definitely got the juices flowing.

    -Warren/Lara, it is funny that while we normally strive for quality over quantity, sometimes sorting through the "quantity" can lead to better quality.

  5. Aaron -

    Agree, serendipitous moments are what makes this life really amazing...you never know what you're going to get or when it will show up. But when it does, you sure don't want to miss it...both in the online and offline worlds :)

    Thanks for sparking a great conversation...its all part of the journey.


  6. Thanks Aaron and Michael for this bit of provocation. "Engagement" happens in different ways. Often the quiet person is the one paying most attention. I never cease to be amazed when I'm telling someone something about me or my views or experiences and they say, yes, I read that on your blog. Or on Facebook, or on Twitter... For me it would be an unproductive, no, dumb move to drop followers because they hadn't had a direct two-way conversation with me.

  7. -Michelle, totally agree.
    -Des, good point. I hadn't thought of that but you're right. Many of the folks that don't interact w/ me a ton on Twitter/my blog always seem to be the ones that remember every detail that you've talked about. BTW, I appreciate your stopping by. You had a long way to travel coming from down under! ;)

  8. I try to have it both ways (of course)

    I use groups to make sure I 'see' different sets of people - people I interact with all the time, people I want to get to know, people I want to promote, etc.

    In a sense I am trying to engineer or encourage serendipity and the formation of relationships. But I wouldn't get rid of general followers - they are my group members of tomorrow!

  9. Great read Aaron! In recent weeks I have made a conscious effort to trim back on the folks I follow moving forward. Mainly becaUSe as Twitter becomes the "it thing" more and more scammers are trying to sell really lame shit. BUT, I have however been goodabout not trimming back folks who I have added in the past. Most everyone eventually will connect with some kind of business op or a suggestion I have never thought of. So I am like you, rolling the dice, I'm jsut not following clowns trying to sell shit!