Quantity vs Quality in Social Media Relationships

Positive Relationships

image credit to Dr. Beth Cabrera

Quantity or Quality of Social Media


Social media culture seems to place an overwhelming emphasis on quantity of “friends,” “followers,” and “Fans.” Yet most social networkers claim that their goal is relationships. “Dunbar’s number” (approximately 150) is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships, according to anthropologist Robin Dunbar.

Realistically, do we have to sacrifice quality for quantity?

I assume that most people would like to increase BOTH the quantity AND the quality of their relationships through the leverage of social media. This goal presents challenges, because time (life) and attention have finite dimensions.  Is there a limit to how much time and attention we can devote to relationships?

First of all, I recognize that for internet marketers quantity may have its own value in what used to be called “eyeballs” during the “dot-com bubble.” Sometimes the goal is simply exposure. If you have an ad or an offer that you want seen by as many eyeballs as possible, then quantity may be the dominant factor. However, even in that scenario, a “targeted” audience (or list) of “qualified leads” would be desirable.

Consider Pareto’s Law, otherwise known as the 80/20 Rule, or the law of the vital few and the trivial many. If we could anticipate which 20 % would produce 80% of our desired results, we could focus our finite resources on those.  In the realm of social media, we might increase our odds by paying more attention to the profiles of those we invite to be friends. In other words, thinking like a salesman, we might pre-qualify our prospective “friends” and “followers.” Then when we invest our precious time really communicating with those new friends, we might have Pareto’s Law on our side. 🙂

In the early stages of participation in social media, we tend to be “hungry” for more quantity, and we may accept anyone indiscriminately. This tendency may come back to haunt us when we reach the Facebook limit of 5000 friends, or when we get bogged down in twitter clutter or an overwhelming quantity of feeds on our wall or home page. The laser metaphor dramatically illustrates the power of focus. What if we really concentrated our time and attention on the 20%ers?

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