IN THE EARLY 1900′s, there was an efficiency expert that excitedly walked into his boss’s office exclaiming that he had made a discovery.
He spoke of an employee earning $50,000 a year who sat with his feet on the desk; and had been this way for some time. The expert advised his boss to fire the employee.
Henry Ford’s response to the efficiency expert was, “That man once had an idea that saved me a million dollars. When he got it, his feet were right where they are now.” 1
I bring up this story because it highlights what I believe is one of the biggest problems in today’s society: the need to always appear busy. Wasting time is frowned upon, but are we really wasting time on Facebook when we think we are? I don’t think so.
This article argues that many of us would do well to waste time on Facebook and provides research dating back to the 1970s to support it. At the end, I provide my 3 best tips to waste time on Facebook in order to grow your business.
Is it a Good Thing to be a Combination of the 5 People You Spend the Most Time Around?
In 1973 the American Journal of Sociology published a paper called The Strength of Weak Ties. It argued that success is more dependent on one’s peripheral contacts and vague acquaintances and not one’s closest friends. The paper argued that one’s close friends had almost nothing to do with one’s success. 2
For those curious, the strength of a tie was measured as a combination of the amount of time, emotional intensity, intimacy, and reciprocal services between the two parties and all ties were assumed to be positive and symmetric. The ties are independent of each other but highly correlated. I should also note that the theory of weak ties was examined in Malcom Gladwell’s bestselling book The Tipping Point.
There’s a famous quote people seem to like to put on pictures and upload to Facebook that says, “You’re the combination of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Often the person voicing this phrase is assuming that you should focus all of your time and effort on the 5 people closest to you because they will have the biggest influence on how successful you become.
While I agree with the premise, I think this is only one part of the story.
The five people you spend the most time with will certainly affect your motivation and guide your interests but will have very little to do with how successful you are in the long run.
According to the theory of weak ties, the people on the periphery that you went to high school with or met once at a seminar, party, bar, online dating website, or in the line to buy overpriced coffee will determine whether or not you’re successful—that is, if you can figure out a way to keep in touch with them in a non-obtrusive way.
Undoubtedly you’ve been building your Facebook friend list for years. I’d argue that, for many small businesses, this is your greatest attribute and under utilized by most. I’m constantly asked how to get more business through Facebook or how to build a profitable Facebook page. Before developing strategies to build a relationship and gain trust with an entirely new audience, start with the network you’ve already developed.
That girl you met once at a party who you added to Facebook might refer you business or, better yet, work at a marketing firm and writes a blog. Or maybe she writes for your local newspaper or a large publication and is looking for content from trusted sources.
We resonate towards people who think and act like us and, as a result, they’re careers often mimic our own. While this can be motivating (especially if they are doing better than you), it’s also uninteresting, stymies creativity, and I’d argue is ultimately detrimental for growth.
If you don’t know, I came from the fitness industry. In fact, I still own and operate the World’s Largest Collaborative blog for personal trainers. To me, fitness was never interesting. I was a personal trainer for 8 years and never cared much for the exercise prescription element of the job.
Fitness isn’t interesting because it is one-dimensional. The importance of the workout pales in comparison to whether somebody wants to do it—and that’s rooted in psychology.
Social media works the same way. When asked what I do, my response is that I’m an explorer. I explore psychology and apply it to social media. When I worked as a personal trainer I explored psychology and applied it to fitness or, more specifically, improving adherence to fitness programs.
Many social media experts seem to be obsessed with the buttons: A/B testing Facebook ads, the “best” way to design a page, the best apps and so on. The importance of the buttons pales in comparison to the ability to get your users to want to push them and want to talk about you; again, it’s the intersection of two disciplines that is interesting.
It would have been easy for me to stay in the fitness industry, do very little work, sell materials, and make a very good living. But I wanted more and if you’ve read this far, so do you.
The Answer Might Just Lie in Wasting More Time on Facebook
Metcalfe’s Law states that the power of a network is directly correlated to the square of the number of nodes on that network. Increasing the amount of nodes you have on your network will increase its power—whether or not they are strong ties doesn’t matter much.
I’m often told by people that they’ve “cleaned up their Facebook” by deleting all of the people they don’t talk to. My response to that person is that he or she just made a very stupid business decision.
As Rory Sutherland says, “Facebook is about nothing if it is not about serendipity, coincidence, the happy accident, the shared admission—quite simply it’s all about increasing one’s chances of becoming the lucky victim of a happy accident.”3 In deleting the 1,000 or so loose connections you had built up over the years, you’ve taken away 1,0002 opportunities to get lucky.
Facebook marketing, if you want to call it that, is about being at the top of the mind—it’s about winning the race to the top of the feed. Marketing is no longer about tricking or convincing people to buy a product or service with one advertisement—it’s about staying at the top of their mind for long enough that when they decide to buy, you’re the first person they think of.
The World is becoming more of a mentally exhausting place every day. It’s impossible to concern oneself with all of the different variables when making a purchasing decision.
Most buyers are what’s called satisficers and are more interested in avoiding a bad decision or one that will make them appear foolish then they are in making the best decision. For more on this, I suggest you learn about loss aversion as proposed by Daniel Kahnamen. Actually, I suggest you just read Kahnamen’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow.4
People want to do business with other people, especially people that they trust. But trust is not necessarily based off of anything tangible. Trust is often developed out of familiarity. The more times we see something, the more legitimate we believe that it is—a concept called cognitive ease.
The Facebook feed has become many people’s reality. Your feed consists of who and what you’ve chosen to listen to and learn from. For small businesses this presents a huge opportunity as they finally have an avenue to be heard in the absence of those with much bigger advertising budgets.
3 Ways You Should Waste Time on Facebook
Mindless scrolling through your feed reading whatever Buzzfeed article seems eerily appropriate today isn’t going to cut it.
The power of Facebook lies in making as many varied connections as you can and supporting as many people as possible—the power lies in increasing your chances of getting lucky–in serendipity.
Here are my top 3 tips for wasting time on Facebook:
- Every day actively promote somebody else on your personal and professional page. At least 3 times a week ensure that this person is in another industry and is somebody you haven’t spoken to in a long time. I have friends I haven’t spoken to in years who are in a struggling band, starting a blog, working in non-profits etc. and you know what? They’re all great people doing great things and my support means a lot. In addition, I’ve strengthened my bond with them. When they need or somebody they know needs my services, I’ll be the first person who is recommended because I increased my chances of getting lucky.
- Be a Sea Lion. The sea lion is opportunistic. When an influencer in your industry publishes a status update, a flurry of activity follows. Watch the thread that ensues and look for familiar names. The people actively commenting, liking, and sharing the information are the best people for you to network with. Not everybody is an avid sharer, the sea lion finds those that are, supports them, and increases their chances of getting lucky.
- Be Consistent and always be helpful. Give 100x more than you ever hope to receive. Instead of actively promoting your services, write a short status update with tips on how the person can solve whatever problem your service solves. Become the expert by providing value, not spamming your product across as many places at once. Every day give at least one piece of valuable information for others to see and when they, or somebody they know, needs your product or service, you might just get lucky.
My father taught me not to burn any bridges. He taught me to be creative, to think differently, and to challenge conventionality—my Dad taught me to live an fulfilling life full of interesting people in order to achieve success.
I waste time on Facebook following all the important lessons my father taught me and he doesn’t even have an account.
3The Wiki Man – Rory Sutherland
4Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahnamen