As you all know, I am a huge fan of social media and networking via the internet. I think it’s a vital and necessary tool for everyone who wants to increase their network and connections, which at the end of the day equals new professional and personal relationships, better marketing aimed at the people you want your product to be aimed at, connecting with an incredibly supportive group of people who all rely on each other to ‘get the word out’, and building a better business.

I confess, though, to being disappointed in some of the tactics used by people to garner followers quickly. I’ll focus on Twitter in this post.

I’ve noticed a new ‘tactic’ recently, and I’ll call the tacticians ‘Tag’ followers. These people will follow you based on Twitter recommendations _or_ based on searches. Since my Twitter description has both ‘baker’ and ‘writer’ in it, and since my Twitter handle is @awanthi_cooks, I attract foodies as well as writers or people who have anything to do with the writing business, including publishers, literary agents, and people who run e-newspapers or e-magazines.

Now, if you follow me and I check your profile out and I’m really interested in you based on your description and the quality of your tweets, I will typically follow you back. But this is where I’m apparently doing it wrong; what I do out of courtesy and interest, people take for granted as a ploy to get more followers. So they follow me for 24 or 48 hours, and then, when I’ve followed them back, they stop following me.

This is, frankly, bewildering. It doesn’t do you any favours, first of all, in the eyes of the people you followed simply so you could get them to follow you back. Mostly, you seem to have missed out on the whole point of social media and networking. Here’s the secret.

It’s not about you.

There you go. It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? Simple, but you’d be amazed at how difficult a concept this is for most people to grasp.

Most people appear to look at social media tools like Twitter or Facebook as one thing and one thing only: numbers. I was even amazed to discover that you can apparently buy followers on Twitter, which truly boggles the mind.

In the days when networking involved getting out there and making yourself known, it wasn’t about the number of visiting cards in your Rolodex. Back in the olden days I imagine a ‘tag follower’ would have been the sort of person who would go to bars or cocktail lounges, strut around, and then simply ask people for their visiting cards. People would have typically obliged so that they could carry on with what they were doing; socialising and _networking_ while doing so. You see, nothing’s changed in the principle of social media between then and now.

It’s _still_ about socialising. It’s _still_ about being interested in someone else. It’s _still_ about building a relationship, and when you build anything where do you typically start?

Yes, that’s right. At the foundations.

So, here’s my advice to you. Forget the numbers. They will grow as your networks and your relationships grow. Be interested in people. They are not there to listen to you as you sit on your little throne and dictate to them. Nobody cares about anything you say unless they care about _you_. Never forget that.

Build your relationships from the foundation up. This takes time. Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. Some day it will all pay off. Not only will you have _real_ networks with _real_ people and their businesses, but you will also have gained immense respect. People will care about you because you cared about them. You will give and you will take.

Because that’s what life is. Networking via social media isn’t complicated or impossible, but it does require time, patience, and lots of investment. Any relationship is a two-way street, and it’s no different just because it’s on the internet.