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    I’m going to go out on a limb and say I will probably never have a conversation with Lady Gaga or President Obama or Sanjay Gupta on Twitter. I am surprisingly OK with this. Because what I am having are conversations with people in my industry who, despite having nowhere near 4 million followers, have the ability to respond, Retweet and appreciate my content.

    These are the people who matter most to me. And I suggest to you that for your own personal brand’s sake, this is the kind of group that should be high on the priority list for you. They represent a Core Group of influencers who understand your value and will act upon what you say more than a “Like” or a Follow. You should hold your own Core Group to this standard in the social realm because a well-developed group will raise your credibility and influence. They will give you a deeper relationship that has meaning and mutual satisfaction. We often get so caught up in trying to get more Fans, more Followers and more Connections that we forget about developing a short list of people based on Quality.

    But what does this quality look like? I know sometimes you hear things like, “Identify the influencers and connect with them.” Sure. But what’s a good Influencer? If you are going to stand out and develop your personal brand in a social network setting, you have to put your Circle, Follower list, Fans, etc. through this 5-Factor Filter:

    Interaction:

    Are they only broadcasting about themselves?

    One-way advertisers and promoters aren’t going to be able to help you much. All you have to do to spot these “all about me” folks is look at their social media activity stream and see how much they’ve responded to others. It’s nice of you to Retweet and comment, but what are they doing for you? You’re trying to build relationships. And sustainable 2-way interaction with this particular crowd isn’t realistic.

    On the other hand, what you have to say is valuable. How much time do you want to spend on people who don’t understand that?

    Quality:

    Is this person likely to have a conversation with me beyond 2 words?

    If they don’t have a history of saying more than a “Thanks, (Name),” don’t bother wasting your time with them on your social network. You certainly don’t have to get a response every time, but the Core Group you interact with should give you more. It’s got to be a true back-and-forth to equal true engagement.

    Frequency:

    How long ago did they communicate with the world?

    Don’t wait for someone to come down from the mountain with their wisdom every few months. Your brand deserves regular, ongoing dialogue on a daily or almost daily basis. For example, if you use Twitter, try a tool like Twitoria.com to find people who haven’t tweeted in a long time. It’s quite OK to Unfollow someone who hasn’t shown up on Twitter in 156 days. What’s the point in following someone this disengaged?

    Accessibility:

    Can I envision myself talking to this person offline in the future?

    Via a cocktail party? A networking function? A phone call? A direct e-mail? A one-on-one sales call? An interview?

    It may seem like a bonus to be able to actually meet the name and face offline that you’ve interacted with online. But even if it never happens, you need to at least realistically envision a scenario where you would meet them. Is it reasonable that that you could pick up a phone and schedule a meeting across town with them in a week or two? Great sign. If you have to work through an agent to get a rare meeting many months from now, if ever, they’re probably not going to give a lot to the relationship.

    I have been very fortunate in that the accessibility of some people in my Core Group have led me to further opportunities in blogging, speaking and providing interviews. What doors will your group open for you and you for them?

    Generosity:

    Do they share, forward and link?

    This is really such an important feature of someone who needs to be in your Core Group. The bottom line is that the person in your group is someone who is taking action as a result of what you’ve posted. They show a passion for amplifying your posts as you should in reciprocating theirs. They consistently share. They regularly link to articles you’ve written. They might even put your blog’s link on their website to show it’s one they consistently refer to.

    This is taking it to another level, isn’t it? We’re talking about people who show an interest in your content and demonstrate the desire to pass it along, time and time again. They see you as an authority they trust. Those people will separate themselves from the others, especially if what you have to say is worthy to them. So be diligent about monitoring for positive mentions of your name and notice who is doing the mentioning.

    Don’t go Gaga over the famous influencers. If you’re going to invest your time in developing your personal brand on these social networks, you have to judge your circle in the same selective light. Focus on building your own short list of “real” people who will genuinely give back to you (and vice versa) to take your personal brand’s influence to a new level.

    Demi and Ashton will find a way to carry on, I’m sure.

    Author:

    Dan Gershenson is a Chicago-based consultant focused on brand strategy and content marketing. Dan has guided a variety of CEOs and Marketing Directors at small to medium-sized companies, providing hundreds of strategic plans to help businesses identify their best niches and areas of opportunity. Dan blogs on Chicago Brander, mentors advertising students and cheers relentlessly for the Chicago Bears. Dan graduated from Drake University with a degree in Advertising.

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