by Colleen Flood*
Recently, I was listed in a post entitled, “10 Communications Professionals Who Deserve More Twitter Followers.” After being number one (since I had the least followers) I received a slew of new invitations from individuals looking to connect with me via Twitter. Wow, I was totally flattered. But, with this new popularity (over 200 followers now!) came “tweeps” following me – presumably in anticipation of some good content and building a rapport with me – which raised a number of questions.
While I am connecting with new people at a quick rate, how do I maintain these new relationships and how close will they become? What is the expectation of a follower? How engaged will we become with those we follow? Maybe my new followers are looking to engage one-on-one and with a few I have already done this. I have even met some of my followers in real-life, at a recent tweetup. But how many followers can I actively engage with?
My colleague at BurrellesLuce, Valerie Simon (@valeriesimon) recently guest posted on the PR 2.0 Strategies blog, regarding the limits to the number of people with whom one can maintain social relationships. She mentioned the works of Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist who devised a formula to determine how many friends a human can emotionally interact with. The “Dunbar Number” is a figure of approximately 150 people with whom we can maintain meaningful relationships.
I know of people on Twitter who have thousands of followers and are following thousands, so surely this figure must have increased in the “online world that we all now live in” …right? Wrong. According to Dunbar: Facebook, Twitter, and social networking sites can definitely help us stay in touch. However, social media sites do not increase the number of relationships we can maintain. In the past, without these types of social sites, a relationship with an old pal from kindergarten would have died. In truth, according to Dunbar, we really must “get together” to make the relationship work.
The Internet and social networking sites, in particular, have created a sense of mass intimacy, but realistically anything over 150 friends is just too much according to Dunbar – a point not lost on social media users. In fact, some are even discussing “putting a cap on Twitter followers.” Personally, I am not anticipating that most of my followers will become dear friends, but I do want to learn from them and engage on a “social networking” basis. I enjoy their posts and comments and I think we have a lot to offer each other, even if we don’t make it to each other’s top 150.
What are your thoughts? How are you managing to connect and engage with your followers and the people you follow in meaningful ways? Are you considering or have you already limited the number of people you connect with in social media?
*Bio: Colleen Flood has been a sales consultant with BurrellesLuce for over 12 years and is eager to become a more integrated part of the social-public relations community. She primarily handles agency relations in the New York and New Jersey metro-area. She is not only passionate about work, but also about family, friends, and the Jersey Shore. Twitter: @cgflood LinkedIn: Colleen Flood Facebook: BurrellesLuce