Today I'm here to answer the pressing question: What kind of social network farmer are you? Technically I know next to nothing about actual farming but I feel confident in using farming analogies to describe social networking because I've played a lot of Papaya Farm, Trade Nations, Oregon Trail: American Settler, and other freemium iPhone games. I can plant digital carrots with the best of them. Mistletoe FTW!
Presented without commentary or judgement, with limited commercial interruption, here are some time tested strategies you can use to build a following, avoid co-workers, annoy friends, and generally become a scary numbers monger.
Commercial Agriculture: The goal here is to achieve high "profits" using economies of scale, labour saving technologies, and minimizing effort while maximizing results. All that is just a fancy way of saying, "spam spam spam spam spam spam!" Sing along if you want. Follow anyone and everyone and assume a (low) percentage will follow you back out of reciprocity. A great way to pump up your numbers but significant downside exists as nobody will know who the hell you are. You'll look good on paper though.That's it, I've taken you through a few thousand years of farming history and a decade of Internet life. It was hard but somebody had to do it. Thank you Wikipedia. And in case you're wondering how your number of followers stack up, here's my categorization of your Twitter self-worth using birds. Coming up next time, how Poor Richard's Almanac can help you dominate the interwebs! Quick preview: It can't.
Nomadic Herding: Moseying from here to there, you follow your targets over large territories, ceding control to their movement patterns. An idyllic way to tour the socialsphere, nomadic herding means you just sort of glom onto whoever/whatever interests you, letting your interactions arise naturally. This sounds like a dreamy way to live but it's also highly unpredictable. For example, it could take you some time to find a community or to unearth like-minded people. And there's a great chance you're just going to be hanging out by yourself for awhile.
Communal Farming: Gather up a few friends and power your way to social media success together. By pooling your networks and resources, it's likely you'll immediately feel important. Other people notice when you're constantly chattering, retweeting, and linking to the same (user)names. People's reflexive high school brains will recognize that there's a clique here and it will instinctively make them say, "I want to avoid them but I really just want in." Use that to your great advantage.
Also, if one of your buddies suddenly hits it big, the trickle down effect in social media actually works -- unlike in supply side economics. Trickle down success also historically works out well for rap groups, so feel free to name your crew something catchy/obscure/intimidating so you can graffiti/hashtag up those rough social networking streets.
Organic Farming: Being real! Or at least a close approximation of being real. Social networking organic farmers care about the impact they make on their environment and want to work sustainably with those around them. Each precious node in their network gets personal attention and is most importantly, someone they care about. "Yes, all 4,318 of these people are my friends." I know, total eye roll. (It's here that I remind myself not to be a hater. Some people are just that much more genuine and likeable than I am. I can sometimes/barely live with that.)
Intensive Farming: Disclaimer, most of the next sentence is stolen verbatim from somewhere else. Using high inputs of capital, labour, and heavy usage of technologies such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers relative to land area, intensive farming is the strategy of following everyone and then de-following them after they follow you back to pump up your ratio. Don't be that asshole. Actually, whatever, all's fair in love and social networking. Haha, suckers!
Cash Crop: You pretty much aim straight for the A-List and try to get their attention. You'll skip the riff raff and try to vault the velvet rope. Just one retweet/repost from someone important will make all the difference and you're hoping that will then bring followers, acclaim, and unlimited candy spilling your way. It's a high risk game but I've seen this one play out spectacularly. Watching this strategy unfold from afar is exciting too as you anticipate when/if the big RT happens. It's also enjoyable to see how long the "celebrity" will keep someone dangling.
Industrial Farming: Leveraging all the tools and technology made by modern man, you have evolved into a social networking cyborg. You play TweetDeck like a young Mozart, your Hootsuite solos are Charlie Parker-esque, you guest star/post on everything like Charice. Plus you actually Instapaper Facebook Pages updates to be read later. You send holiday cards with your Klout score displayed prominently. In short, you are RoboNetworker. People are both afraid and in awe of you.
The opposite of this is hoe-farming, which means you like use a digging stick -- a what? -- and do farmy things manually. Without even the help of beasts of burden to befriend/enslave and to lighten your load. Basically you actually log in to the actual Twitter, Facebook, etc. sites to update them. Amateur.
Extensive Farming: "Owing to the extreme age and poverty of the soils, yields per hectare are very low, but the flat terrain and very large farm sizes mean yields per unit of labour are high." I don't even know what that means. I suck at math.
Slash-and-burn: My favorite immortal technique! While I have only a loose grasp of what slash-and-burn agriculture actually involves, I absolutely love everything implied by the name. My version of slash-and-burn social networking involves picking fights with people, preferably people more important than you (for now). By stirring the pot and flinging yourself into flame wars, you piss off the crowd but gain notoriety and infamy. Your goal is to destroy everything in sight and then move on to the next community, gaining fawning acolytes along the way. When in doubt, slash and burn baby. Slash and burn!
Subsistence Agriculture: You are only social networking to clothe your children, feed your family, and to try and maintain a current standard of "not too wired" living. Basically you've taken the "networking" out of the social networking equation. I applaud your nonchalance. No, we applaud your nonchalance. All three of us following you.
Artisan Fishing: I didn't want to leave something so wonderful sounding off the list. Using nets, arrows, harpoons, and massive patience, you glide lightly over the socialsphere, looking only to find the best and brightest. You are a curator of great social media people. You are the artisan fisher. Also, artisan fishing is apparently a World of Warcraft spell. Obviously it is the best spell WoW has to offer.