Social Media and the "Popularity Myth"

One of the most popular burning questions I get from new social media clients is:  “Can you get me more followers?”


Prom image from the TV show Glee

The answer, of course, is “yes” but it comes with a “but.” Specifically: “Yes, I can get you more followers, but you don’t want more followers. What you want is more of the right followers.”

Look, I agree that being unpopular sucks. It makes us feel like no one is asking us to dance at the prom. We all want more Facebook fans, more Twitter followers, more LinkedIn connections, and more YouTube views. And there are many ways to bulk up your audience but when you cut through the hype, it amounts to meaningless shenanigans at the end of the day.

Instead of focusing on how many followers you have, concentrate on attracting the ones you want and focus on creating meaningful relationships with them. Going back to the prom analogy, what do we really think of the guy or gal who dances with everyone and doesn’t take the time to get to know any of their partners? Exactly.

Social media isn’t so much about closing deals (haha… get your mind out of the gutter and stop thinking about the prom for a sec). It’s for cultivating relationships:

  • Use social media to meet new people. It doesn’t replace a face-to-face but played right, it will get you a face-to-face. Plus you can meet people who know people you know, so odds are you’ll have a common purpose.
  • Use social media to stay in touch with people you’ve already met. Ever been to a networking event, met interesting people, had some great conversations, got home with a fist-full of business cards and then… nothing. Use social media to stay in touch, build your rapport with these professionals, and when the opportunity strikes, you’ll be their go-to.
  • Use social media to convince people to hire you or refer you. Be smart. Be informed. Be friendly. Be cool. Be fun. Be authentic. Be you.

And while ROI is important to every entrepreneur… building relationships without a specific dollar target in mind isn’t a new thing at all. Remember the water cooler? Remember golf? Remember season tickets to that local sports team? Social media is just the latest version of the oldest of business practices. No one ever golfed with a well-connected business professional who didn’t end up signing a contract at the eighteenth hole and thought, “Well that was waste of a round of golf.” They think, “I believe I made a great impression. I’ll be on top of mind when the need comes up. He likes me better now and people do business with people they like. Win!”

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