The Social Media Numbers GameDespite what you may have heard, social media is not a numbers game.

Social media, online and email marketing is not about how many friends, fans, followers, subscribers and connections you have.

It’s not about how many pages you’ve “liked” or how many “like” your page.

It’s not about how many groups you’ve joined on LinkedIn or how many people joined the group you started.

It’s not even about how often you post or tweet or blog or publish your eNewsletter.

In case you’re tempted to respond, “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, Linda … you’ve been at this for years!” … you may be surprised to learn that:

I just left half – yes, half! – the groups I belonged to on LinkedIn, either because I realized they were providing no value to me or I had nothing unique to contribute to them. Either way, I think you would agree that neither of us was harmed by this trimming.

I’ve asked business colleagues who originally “friended” me on my personal Facebook profile to join me over at my business page because it’s my intention to start using my personal profile strictly for staying connected to family and close friends. Not all of them have followed me over there yet, but I won’t be shy about giving the last remaining few a final notice when I set a cut-off date. I mean, if they don’t respond to a personal message, they must not be interested in staying in touch with me at all.

Every couple of days I check my new Twitter followers and block the “suspicious” and “spammy” ones. Why should I care if I have 940 Twitter followers or 950, if those extra 10 can cause me untold grief later? If your profile info and picture could be that of a porn star, you’re blocked; that’s all there is to it. If you are following 1,872 people but have only tweeted twice – and both tweets contain unidentifiable links to who-knows-where – you’re blocked. Likewise to the ones who tweet nothing but political rants, hate speech, sales pitches and all-inspirational-quotes-all-the-time (yes, I check the last 5-10 tweets of new followers before following back).

I’ve changed my eNewsletter publishing schedule from the initial twice per month to once per month to the current once a week. I’ve made these changes at various times over an 8-year period due to changes in my target audience, their preferences and the number of different eNewsletters I was publishing at the time. But the decision was never based on some arbitrary formula for how often I “should” email.

I routinely purge my email distribution list of “hard” bounces (that is, emails that are returned due to an “invalid” or “non-existent” address). Slowly, over several years’ time, I have pared my list down by about 35 percent. But it is now a “clean,” responsive, totally up-to-date list and the statistical reports I get after each mailing are accurate, since they’re not skewed by high bounce rates.

So … what is it all about?

It’s understanding from the outset that the online world is both the same and very different from the real world.

It’s about gathering together not just any group of people but a group of people that want to hear from you, beginning with people you know IRL (in real life), who can help spread the word about you from Day One because they already know, like and trust you.

It’s about creating an environment where people will want to gather and where they feel safe from an onslaught of sales pitches and hard selling tactics.

It’s about understanding your audience – what they want to know more about and how they want to receive that information.

It’s about having something valuable to say – and saying it in a way that invites participation.

It’s about not taking it personally when people stop following you – and not letting the number of people in your “tribe” become food for your ego.

It’s less about tactics than about having a strategy for everything you do.

It’s about providing free, interesting and relevant information without expecting anything in return – because it will come if you give without expectation. (You may have to trust me on this, but I guarantee you it is true.)

So … here’s what you can do …

You can go about gathering hundreds or even thousands of random people to your Facebook profile and then spending a good deal of time wondering why nothing interesting and useful ever seems to appear in your News Feed … or you can set some reasonable criteria for making and accepting friend requests and find that you actually look forward to logging on.

You can join 50 groups on LinkedIn, but you’ll soon realize there are not enough hours in the day (and night!) to be a contributing member of all of them – and only active group members have any chance at all of getting anything out of this powerful networking tool.

You can keep gathering email addresses for your email distribution list, but if you’re not clearly letting them know what to expect from your email campaigns, you can expect a lot of opt-outs and bounces.

He who dies with the most Twitter followers doesn’t actually win. Despite what you may have heard. 😉


© 2011 Linda C. Rooney

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Small business mentor Linda Rooney teaches aspiring, new, and evolving entrepreneurs how to navigate the New Economy with startup, branding, marketing, business & personal growth expertise. Get a FREE subscription to her eNewsletter, “Social Smarts,” at


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