I would consider myself an ambassador for the “numbers game” on social networks. Authorities like Seth Godin object to going after numbers, while people such as Guy Kawasaki think that it’s all about numbers (especially on Twitter). I’m split in the middle right now, but I want to take time today to explain why numbers are so important, despite the controversy. In fact, I strongly believe that a lot of “influencers” are telling you not to go for numbers because, in fact, they are going for numbers themselves. In this way, they have more leverage than you do.
To me, the lust for numbers dates back to high school. I wouldn’t consider myself popular in high school, yet I had a strong base of friends in middle school. During my last year of middle school, my city created a brand new school and divided our class, leaving my friendships split between both schools, which in effect damaged them. Then, in high school, I was lost and didn’t have much self-esteem. Everyone was trying to get into the “popular group,” and I didn’t think I fit in. It was all about having a lot of friends, so you had enough social proof to go to select parties, etc. If you weren’t popular, you weren’t included. If you’re reading this, you probably fell into one of these categories.
Our society is obsessed with numbers. Numbers are standard metrics for measurements of popularity. One example was when Aston Kutcher raced CNN to a million followers on Twitter. Another one was when CNN brough Gary Vaynerchuk in to be on TV, and they promoted him as having a few hundred thousand followers on Twitter. A lot of people are talking about how Vin Diesel has millions of Facebook fans. Are you seeing the trend here?
Numbers matter in these situations
- Corporate recruitment: If you have the same experience as someone else, but they have 5,000 more contacts and 3 additional recommendations on LinkedIn, they will get the interview over you. The more connected you are, the more productive you are in the workplace and the easier it is for you to market on behalf of your company and recruit other people.
- Advertising: If you want to make money, then numbers are critical to your sponsorship packages and to your potential advertisers. You will always get asked how far your reach is and if you only have 300 subscribers, you might get fifty cents a month. By having more subscribers, you can charge more.
- Book deals: I guarantee that if you have 100,000 followers on Twitter instead of 100 followers, your book advance will be $50,000 more. Publishers are crazy about authors having marketing platforms because all they do is publish it, not sell it.
- Social proof: If you go to a blog that only has twenty subscribers, you probably won’t subscribe because there is no proof that the content is good, aside from the content itself. We are an A.D.D. society, so we need quick evidence before we take time to read something in full. The larger your audience, the easier it is to build on that community.
- Promise of value: If you want to interview successful people or celebrities, you won’t be able to unless you can show a promise of value. They don’t have much time, but will help you if you can prove that your content reaches a large group of people. Networking is the key to personal branding, so if you don’t work to boost your numbers, you won’t be able to network will the “big timers.”
Numbers add up on FriendFeed
In my opinion, FriendFeed (a social aggregation and sharing service) just changed the numbers game forever. I believe that the Feedburner.com number for blog owners is the key to everything. It’s more important than your Twitter following, your LinkedIn contacts and your Facebook friends. The reason is simply because it measures the stickyness of your brand and the reader loyalty. If you have thousands of readers, then more people will subscribe and you will be able to get more perks as a blogger and money from advertisers.
FriendFeed just announced that the number of friends you have count towards this Feedburner.com number. This is a major deal! Basically, what this does is build your perception/brand as a blogger, as long as you invest time in developing your FriendFeed follower base. For instance, Louis Gray, who had almost 10,000 followers on FriendFeed, now has over 14,000 blog subscribers. In effect, this helps build Louis’s brand and anyone else who invested their time in FriendFeed. If you aren’t on FriendFeed, then claim FriendFeed.com/yourname right now and start participating.
On another note, if Louis or someone else on FriendFeed were to add your blog feed URL to their account, your numbers would increase as well. For corporate accounts, such as FriendFeed.com/EMCCorp, all corporate bloggers will gain this benefit (Disclaimer: I work at EMC).
The downfall of a number-driven world
The problem with the numbers game is that having a large number doesn’t mean that people are engaged. Since both Twitter and FriendFeed call for “information dumping,” your tweets and messages on FriendFeed aren’t always read (hat tip to @stu). When it comes to blogs, there is a good chance one of your readers will read your entire post, when they might not have even seen it on FriendFeed.
Therefore, FriendFeed subscribers aren’t as valuable as blog or email subscribers, yet they carry the same number weight.
The truth about how to get numbers
So now you’re wondering how you can build up your subscriber base so that you too can be successful. Here are some strategies that I’ve been using:
- Follow people: On Twitter, I recommend that you find other people in your industry who provide similar value and follow all of their followers, up to 1,000 per day. For Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FriendFeed, I recommend that you import all contacts on these social networks, as well as your email and instant messaging contacts.
- Promote: Get custom URL’s for your social networks and cross-promote them when necessary. Put the URL in your presentations and other marketing collateral, as well as your email signature and blog or website. If you write a guest post for a blog, then include your Twitter name in your bio with a link.
- Build community: By being an active member of communities online, people will get to know you, and your reward is that they will help promote your brand to others. You should seek to become known for providing certain resources to your community, so people go to you first.