Yup, you heard right. I am advocating building large networks for your social media accounts. Of course I don’t mean just build the biggest list possible using mass following and open networking, but there is a reason I say this.
First, there is the obvious reason that having large networks can be good. The bigger the network, the more eyeballs that will see your message – in theory anyway. In reality, it totally depends on the quality of your network and how much attention those people pay to you specifically. If everyone following you is a spambot or has thousands of people connected to them it’s easy to be drowned out by the other noise of their network. Even for people with very targeted accounts, it’s pretty hard to keep up with more than just a couple hundred people if they are updating regularly.
Would Chris Harrington (Charlotte’s #1 Twitter guy by followers) notice if you where tweeting pure brilliance? Probably not. He follows nearly 20,000 people so the chances that he reads much more than a small percentage of his twitter stream is pretty slim. Out of my 13k+ tweeters I follow, there are maybe 75-100 that I pay close attention to. I also keep an eye out for people that mention me specifically so that I can reply appropriately. This pretty much applies to Facebook as well if you plan ahead and put people in groups as you friend them.
The simple fact is that there is so many updates per day that you can read so it makes sense to filter out the ones you are most likely to gain value from or be interested in. That doesn’t mean ignore everyone else however. You still need to filter through your complete stream using keywords that would likely be of interest or value. This is how you will find new people to pay closer attention to and to have conversations with. This is the second reason that having a big network is good. It will expose you to more opinions and ideas and from time to time you’ll even find a little inspiration.
The third reason having a big number is important is the one I like the least but it’s all about making impressions. All things being equal, it’s human nature to assume the person with more connections is more important, smarter, or the “expert”. Does this mean I am an expert? Heck no. Brian Cuban pretty much summed up my thoughts – I am a guy who enjoys social media that has a lot of opinions. But it is a necessary evil if you want to be taken seriously by someone who is trying to form an opinion about you. Seeing the big number gives you credibility, even if it is undeserved. This is the double-edged sword of social media. The metric is bogus, but it’s also the one that the typical user uses for better or for worse.