Do I need thousands of followers?

Followers are not relationships

Read time 1m35s

British Anthropologist Robin Dunbar says a typical human can maintain about 150 stable relationships. “Dunbar’s Number” has implications for how we run our lives and businesses.

Dunbar goes on to define a “stable relationship” as one where you would be comfortable meeting the person for a drink. In your web of 150 relationships, you should know how each person in the network relates to the others in your network. There is hard science behind Dunbar’s Number regrding the limits of our ability to keep track of people and relationships. 

AI image created by author

Many businesses build operating structures based on Dunbar’s Number. A business unit of 150 individuals is manageable. Strangers become colleagues and colleagues become friends. Not quite the intimacy of a 10-person startup, but small enough where everybody knows what others are working on and how it all creates synergy for the success of the unit.

But what about the thousands or tens of thousands of followers you have on social media? Are they worth anything? If you are distributing a newsletter or educating that audience, then yes, those followers are valuable. Otherwise, all those followers will not likely help your career.

So, what should you do? Let’s go back to Dunbar. In addition to the rule of 150, Dunbar went on to articulate that we spend 60% of our networking time on just 15 people, and 40% of our time on five people.

You’ve heard the expression, “a good relationship is built on trust.” In today’s social-media and FOMO-driven world, it is more important than ever to keep this in mind.

Those 15 people that are your tightest circle should be relationships that are continually reinforced – not taken for granted. 

These are the people you want to see face-to-face at least once per year. You want to send them gifts for special occasions and drop them a note to acknowledge their accomplishments. Go out of your way to stay front and center in their minds.

Keys to success

  • Avoid the FOMO of adding followers and connections without regard to who they are and what they do. Ask yourself if that new follower or connection can help you or if you can help him in some way.

  • Build your network from the inside out. Start with your best relationships and expand carefully. Keep in mind that the 15 most important relationships will consume 60% of your time. Choose how to spend your time wisely.

  • Recognize that your dream job interview or important recommendation will not come from one of your thousands of followers, but will come from one of your 15 closest relationships.

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