If we put a number on it, people will try to make the number go up.

Now that everyone is a marketer [personal branding + social media account], many people are looking for a louder megaphone, a chance to talk about their work, their career, their product… and social media looks like the ideal soapbox, a free opportunity to shout to the masses.

But first, we are told to make that number go up.

Increase the number of fans, friends and followers, so your shouts will be heard.

The problem of course is that more noise is not better noise.

In his book Social Media Overload, Corey Perlman say the conventional, broken wisdom is:

  • Follow a ton of people to get people to follow back;
  • Focus on the # of followers, not the interests of followers or your relationship with them;
  • Pump links through the social platform (take your pick, or do them all);
  • Offer nothing of value, and no context. This is a megaphone, not a telephone; and
  • Think you are winning, because you are playing games (highest follower count wins!)

This looks like winning (the numbers are going up!), but it is actually a double-edged form of losing.

First, you are polluting a powerful space, turning signals into noise and bringing down the level of discourse for everyone.

And second, you are wasting your time when you could be building what Seth Godin calls a tribe instead, could be earning permission, could be creating a channel where your voice is actually welcomed.

Leadership (even idea leadership) scares many people, because it requires you to own your words, to do work that matters. The alternative is to be a junk dealer.

The game theory pushes us into one of two directions:

  • Either be better at pump and dump than anyone else, get your numbers into the millions, outmass those that choose to use mass and always dance at the edge of spam (in which the number of those you offend or turn off forever keep increasing), or
  • Relentlessly focus. Cut and prune your message and your list and build a reputation that as worth owning and an audience that cares.

Only one of these strategies builds an asset of value.

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