When I was in college, I worked at my school’s gym with a young woman we’ll call Zelda. We’d worked together for years, and I thought of her as a friend. The day my school was granted access to Facebook, back in that halcyon summer of 2004, Zelda excitedly asked me to become Facebook friends with her as soon as possible. I’ll admit, I was a little flattered that someone wanted to be Facebook buddies with me so badly.
When I finally set up my account later that day, I found she had already attracted close to 2,000 friends. She freely admitted to me later that she didn’t know most of them — and she didn’t want to. She was just competing to be the most virtually popular girl on campus. I still friended her, but I felt a little cheap afterward. I didn’t see the point in having all those connections that didn’t mean anything.
Flash forward to today: Social media has grown up in a lot of ways. It has become a broadcast channel, a marketing outlet and a haven for collaboration. It’s a much more mature, useful platform. But it’s still filled with the Zeldas of the world, all clamoring for attention. I’m not the only one annoyed by it either — some people go so far as to resort to mass unfollowing.
Gary Stein makes a great point about the futility of casual fans in his analysis of the Nickelback/pickle conundrum. We talk about the dangers of overexpansion in business all the time, but we never discuss the issue in a social-media context. If you build more stores than your supply chain can handle, the whole brand suffers. If you connect with millions of people and you don’t have the resources to actually establish a connection with them, you’re wasting your time, their time and whatever resources you’ve already thrown at the project.
What’s the solution? I don’t think you need to know every person you connect with via a social platform — but you should at least be interested in them and capable of adding a little something to their lives. You need to have the manpower to handle creating enough content to keep your followers engaged, both as a group and as individuals. If you’ve become so popular that you’re not able to really interact with your audience anymore, you’re growing too quickly. Shift your focus from expansion to shoring up your base, because engagement is a two-way street. Ignore your followers and you might end up with a list full of Zeldas.
Can you have too many social-media followers? Is quality of engagement more important than raw numbers? How can companies maintain a balance?
Image credit, Tanya len, via Shutterstock