Should you start collecting more online friends?

Quantity – not quality – could be more important for social networking

The debate about the number of social networking contacts you should have has raged on for years. Indeed, even before the era of online social networking business leaders argued over whether you should cultivate a small group of contacts who you know well, or a large collection of people who you don’t have such deep relationships with. Is it the quality of your business network that matters, or the quantity?

This is a fairly polarised debate. Networking strategist Andy Lopata, for instance, argued that quality is more important than quantity in his blog post “Stop Playing the Numbers“. Yet another networking expert, Thomas Power, the founder of the world’s first business social network, Ecademy, argues that quantity is more important than quality, which he did in a recent edition of “The Global Networking Show“.

Online social networking has faced the same issue. Should you collect thousands of friends and followers or should you just focus on a small group. Professor Robin Dunbar has argued that we only have 149 people in our social groups on average anyway, something which has become known as “the Dunbar Number“. So how come there are people on Facebook with thousands of friends, or on Twitter with millions of followers? Do they know something we don’t? Have they realised that quantity is better than quality in some way?

As ever, research and testing can help provide the answer. Thankfully, research from social psychologists at North Carolina State University has found the answer:

[quote]Quantity beats quality.[/quote]

Well, at least in terms of one measure – money. It turns out that the people who networked the most, who contacted the most people and who took every opportunity to build the number of people they were connected with were the ones who had the greatest increase in income. The people who focused on a smaller group of contacts, did not have the same degree of financial success.

So, at first sight, it seems that the psychologists have answered that age-old conundrum and pointed us in the direction of quantity over quality.

It seems sure, therefore, that if you build up your connections in your network you will make more money as a result.

Except all is not as it seems. Even though the research found that people with big networks made more money than those with small networks, it was the behaviour and attitudes of the people that were more important. The people with the big networks that made the most money were motivated by growth and advancement. In other words, they probably were making more money due to this characteristic of their personality rather than the size of their network. The network size is probably a reflection of their behaviour – they attract more people to want to connect to them because they are go-ahead people. They make more money because they are go-ahead, not necessarily through the size of their network.

It is not quality OR quantity

What the research really suggests is that you shouldn’t focus on quantity nor should you concentrate on quality. Instead, you should focus on your motivation. Concentrate on growth, on building your business and on reaching your goals. In doing so, your social network numbers will take care of themselves. You will inevitably increase the number of friends and followers as a result of your go-getting behaviour. But it will not be those numbers, on their own, that make the difference. It is your behaviour that will do that.

 

1 thought on “Should you start collecting more online friends?”

  1. Thanks for this blog Graham and for referencing my own post.

    I agree that attitude and behaviour is the key. People who build large networks for the sake of it but do nothing to nurture and leverage those contacts will not succeed. Nor will people whose networks are too small, not diverse enough and who also don’t interact with those with whom they are connected.

    Behaviour, above attitude, is King. A network is something we interact with rather than just create. However large the network, the people who develop strong relationships and high levels of trust with their connections will be far more successful than anyone else.

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