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Mia D

Excellent post! Completely agree with all the points you've made here. The reason many cling to the "meaningless" metrics is because it's so easy to do but quality of relationships/engagement is ignored because it's not easy to measure. Traditional marketing has always been about influence and numbers rather than conversations and relationships, which explains the focus on the wrong metrics. The true value of social media lies in the individual/1:1 relationships and not in the numbers, as you've pointed out.

Allison Fine

Been thinking a lot about this recently (obviously!) and think that we need to be careful about boxing ourselves into an either/or scenario. Having a lot of followers or friends or readers does not automatically connote influence, but creates the opportunity for it. As you rightly state that influence is not an end point but a point along the continuum of change.

The volume of followers is important for several reasons:
1. As you've discovered on Twitter, there is a power in more. More followers creates more followers - it's a gravitational pull.
2. A larger following creates the possibility of more people listening and talking and doing more for social change.
3. Even your nonfollowers are watching what you're doing. The size of your following creates a shadow and simply by the size of the shadow influences what others, like, say, mainstream media, are thinking about and writing about. (sorry to sound so scary with the shadow bit)

There's another reason why the size of the following is so important through social media. Because it cuts across boundaries that previously restricted women and people of color from participating. You, as an individual, have built a substantial following in a way that you could never have done before social media alone. It enables new voices to be heard, like mommy bloggers, at a volume that was previously impossible to amplify.

You are absolutely right that ultimately what a person does with that influence is what counts. However, the influence begins before the action. So, it's a "both/and" not an "either/or".

Beth

@afine

If you click through to link to the experiment that Geoff and I did, you'll see the theory may not pan.  In my case, the followers were added from the Twitter SUL - not through relationship building.  I don't have the capacity to know the followers, network weave, - its beyond the dunbar number.  That doesn't create social capital.  Yesterday on Twitter, Kathy Sierra had a couple of really insightful points - she said that the number isn't necessarily meaningless.


A very clarifying point - that the number is meaningless unless there is CONTEXT.

Why is the number of followers increasing? or decreasing?  What insights does that provide?
Reminded me of a post I wrote awhile back about harvesting insights with metrics

http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2009/01/using-metrics-and-insight-harvesting-to-track-and-improve-your-blog-content.html

Leonardspeiser

Nice piece, thanks for sharing.

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