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Understanding the Personal Communication Matrix

Once you’ve come to an understanding that social media is a team sport, and begun to participate in conversations — always listening, chiming in only when you can genuinely advance the conversation constructively — it’s only natural to start to wonder why it is that some people are more popular than others. And the more popular someone is, the harder it generally is to get his or her attention.

In “Trust Agents” Chris Brogan and Julian Smith warn A-listers against creating the impression of “one-way intimacy” by engaging more people in conversations then you can keep up with, and then walking away without saying goodbye. But the truth is, they were addressing a high-class problem experienced mostly by the elite few with networks of thousands. The more common scenario is the one of the little guy, trying to get noticed by the power social networker.

Sooner or later, if your aim is to build your professional network, there’ll come a time when you’re going to have to figure out how to catch the attention of the digerati, also known as the ones who are constantly bombarded with incoming requests for something from someone they don’t know.

It reminds me of the days when press releases were the primary communications format businesses used to get the word out. In those days, press releases were written to appeal to journalist watching a veritable sea of announcements clearing a newswire. Not entirely unlike tweets or status updates fed over social media, is it?

But the difference is, in the press release newswire scenario, the only way you knew if a headline worked was by the number of inquiries that resulted, whereas in social media, it’s about the impact your updates have on the community, as measured by clicks, comments, favorites, embeds and thank yous.

But I digress. What I really want to do int his post is share a gem of knowledge I got from last week’s episode of On the Record…Online with Jeff Pulver.

I spoke with Jeff, the producer of the 140 Characters Conference and the father of the VoIP industry, who appears to have mastered the art of B2B social networking. In our conversation, which you can download in its entirety, he shared how he uses social media to cut through the clutter and catch the attention of the hardest reach online personalities, whether he knows them or not.

We also covered cross-pollinating social networks, where the VoIP industry is headed and whether or not government regulators should be looking beyond net neutrality to search neutrality.

But if you prefer to read Jeff’s power social networking tips alone, here they are:

Identify, Remember and Use Preferred Communication Channels
If you’re reading this, chances are you already tweet, Facebook, e-mail, make phone calls and have even started experimenting with Google Buzz for business communications. But we don’t all use the same channels for the same purposes. For example, I tend to send e-mail primarily to talk to people I know, or people who I think may already know of me. On Twitter, I share and engage mostly around professional or business oriented topics.

I syndicate my tweets to Facebook, where my contacts are business and personal, and where I share and engage on personal basis too. So a useful Mashable post gets shared on Twitter, and pictures of my kid get shared on Facebook. If you’re a business contact and you don’t want to see pictures of my kid, follow me on Twitter. If you’re friends and family on Facebook, you probably don’t mind seeing my work-related stuff, cause it helps you keep abreast of what’s up with me.

You may use these emerging channels differently. But if you take an old school communication channel like the phone which has had enough time to percolate culturally, you probably have similar feeling about cold calls. No one likes telemarketers or robocalls.

The lesson is that while communication channels are developing, people tend to use them differently. For most people, the phone is not an appropriate channel for interruption marketing. Phones are better for fast, one-on-one problem solving and logistics. Direct ssales on Facebook is kind of tacky, but lead generation on Slideshare is expected.

We all have our own personal communication matrix, a sort of map representing how we use different communication channel. As Jeff put it, the future of marketing rests in one’s ability to identify, remember and connect with prospects through their preferred communication channel.

Pay Attention to Personal Usage Patterns
But even if you do get the preferred communications channel right, that may not be enough. It’s going to be much easier to get someone to respond to you via social media while they’re live on the service. Jeff says if he wants to get someone’s attention, maybe someone with a lot of followers, he’ll visit their profile first to try and spot a pattern with respect to when they tweet. If there is, he’ll contact them then.

When is a big deal in social media. The “now” nature of Twitter means that tweets get less and less desirable the longer they live. Which again, is not unlike a press release, which dies on the vine if it fails to stir interest after the first day of release.

What about Google Buzz?

Given the rapid rise of Google’s new social networking service, which is tied to Gmail, if you want to be an effective online social networker, it’s obvious you’re going to need to stay up on your game. In just days, Google Buzz has taken the Internet by storm, attracting many of the early adopters who tend to lead the charge for the rest of us onto these new social networking services. And since Google Buzz wraps all your social networking activities into one service, it may soon become a preferred channel, which means you’ll have to learn and identify with whom as well.

It’s all about knowing you’re prospects preferred communication channel, contacting them while they’re live, respecting the rules of the road and never letting your understanding of their personal communication matrix get stale.

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