by Josh Druck
on November 8, 2013

Social Networks are the Plumbing of Society

In a new video Every Single one of You is a Media Company, Gary Vaynerchuk invoked a brilliantly insightful image: Social networks as plumbing. (Minute 0:55)

I love this image. It’s something that everyone who “gets” social networking understands, and everyone who doesn’t, well, doesn’t.

People who don’t understand social tend to think of a social network as a kind of personal trophy. I cringe whenever I hear someone say “I’ve got 500+ connections on LinkedIn!”.

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It reminds me of Sally Fields’ Oscar acceptance speech. (“You like me…right now you like me!”)

That’s why Vaynerchuk’s image is powerful.

A social network isn’t a trophy. It’s just plumbing. The pipes alone don’t get you very much. Their value comes from your ability to put stuff through them. The stuff you put through social pipes is, of course, content–family photos, car wash ads, turkey recipes, investment advice–whatever messages you’re trying to get out there. Social networks allow you to steer your content to specific individuals who know, care about, and trust you.

You’re not just dropping a message in a bottle, like the early blogging days. You’re routing the message through social plumbing, to specific individuals that you know, and to the specific individuals they know, and so on. That dramatically

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increases the chances that someone will pay attention to you, and act on what you have to say.

It matters, and matters deeply, what you put through pipes. No one wants sewage showing up in their sink. Interesting, compelling, useful content is appreciated, shared, acted on. Selfish, spammy content gets ignored and reviled.

Don’t just think about the plumbing, think about the water.

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