Yes, follower numbers matter

The world of Social Media is obsessed with numbers. As we try to quantify the reputation economy we delve into the black art of measuring influence. Twitter stats, profile graders, twitter lists, RT reach, conversational stats…  ad nauseum.

Understanding and measuring aren’t bad but we need to remember that these numbers appeal to the most basic of human characteristics. Pride. Truthfully, at some point in our journey we’ve all been concerned about the number of followers or fans that we have obtained. Then we become enlightened and realize that it is about connection quality, not quantity. This is beyond dispute but my philosophy around numbers has evolved and the fact is the numbers matter. The difference is understanding our role.

Flip the Pyramid

I propose there are 3 basic relationships in social media

  1. Base of the Pyramid – This is our relationship when we enter a community. We gain value from others but we have little influence within the structure.
  2. Peers (mid-pyramid) – As relationships grow and we invest time into the community we build relationships that put us on more equal footing. It is the beginning of people recognizing your value and contributions within the community.
  3. Top of the Pyramid – Through time, expertise, or force of personality we reach the top of the pyramid. Our influence and reach are being maximized and our platform is established.

It’s worth noting that these relationships coexist and evolve consistently. You may be at the top of the pyramid in one area, maintaining peer relationships, and still be at the base of other communities.

It is in our nature to want to reach the top of the pyramid, we want our voice heard, we want people to notice us, and we use a variety of metrics to help determine how high we have risen. This doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human.

Then something happens. The good book rings true, “To whom much is given, much is required”. We are faced with the responsibility of influence. It is at this precise moment you must understand that it is time to flip the pyramid.


The model of social media community as a platform for extend our reach and influence should be entirely reworked. It’s time to lift up the community. You have a unique opportunity to elevate the base. It becomes less about our individual message and more about being a connector and recognizer. Start with these two goals to begin flipping the pyramid,

  • Find smart folks and promote them
  • Find those who are doing good for others and help leverage your community to extend that work

Retweet them, blog them, let them guest post, link to them, favorite them, interview them; do it however you like but figure out how to make it about them and don’t worry about your influence. Social media is the best proof we have that karma exists. Give a lot, give often, and you’ll receive more than you can imagine.

The numbers matter because the more people paying attention to you the more opportunity and responsibility you have to pay attention to them.

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