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PodCamp NH 2010One of the most hotly contested discussion topics at PodCamp NH this past weekend was the question of who to follow on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. As has been discussed many times before, some people believed in casting a wide net and following many, while others believed in being highly selective and following just a few. By the end of the discussion, I’m not convinced folks were any more clear as to which strategy to pursue.

Here’s a different way to look at the question: what are your goals? Broadly, there are two different goals you could be pursuing with your social networking strategy, segmentation and serendipity.

If you have a goal of creating a tight, highly valuable network where the only interactions you have are with people you know and trust, you’re effectively pursuing a segmentation strategy. You’re looking to get maximum value out of the content that comes from the network, at the cost of not having as much reach. This is especially effective when you want to target a very specific niche as a marketer.

If you have a goal of creating a broad, diverse network where you’re interacting with many people across many different industries and backgrounds, you’re pursuing a serendipity strategy. You’re looking to get maximum value out of the network itself, creating fruitful grounds for interconnections in your network and connections through you as its hub. This comes at the cost of a lack of focus in the content of the network. A serendipity strategy is especially effective when you’re looking to reach people in different pockets, pools, or verticals, as well as when you’re looking for new and different ideas.

Neither strategy is “right”. Neither strategy is inherently better than the other. One focuses on value through content, the other focuses on value through the network. Which strategy you choose depends on what kind of value you want. It’s also worth pointing out that neither strategy is black and white or as clear cut. You can still create some opportunities for serendipity while having a focus on content, and you can still create some opportunities to find content while having a focus on the network. It’s just a question of which value you’ll get more of.

Do you know which kind of value you want?

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