Gaming the (social media) system – consensual spam or the way to generate business?

16 August 2010 By Northern Lights

Gaming the (social media) system – consensual spam or the way to generate business? image

Image courtesy of / Idea go

I have been struggling with one aspect of social media.  Is it a good thing to have thousands of followers – on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and so on?

When I started out in social media I was quite clear in my own mind that the aim should be about forming meaningful relationships.  If the people you ‘meet’ through social media are eventually to become customers, then you need to be forming relationships with quality, relevant people – not just looking for anyone who wants to have big numbers on their Twitter account.

Some time ago, Nick Bramley told me his rules for connecting with someone on LinkedIn.  He said he would only link with someone who

–        he would meet and have a drink with after a meeting

–        he was happy to recommend to his clients

–        he would do business with

I like these, they feel right.

Then I went to a number of conferences and courses and people I respect started explaining why large numbers can be good.


1. The case for building large numbers of followers in social media

  • Thomas Power spoke at the CIPR Northern Conference.  In his talk he put his Twitter account on screen and I spotted he had 18,000 plus followers and is following 17,000 people back.  I asked if he knew the people he was following and his eyebrows shot up – no, of course not.  He has an automated system which follows people back when they follow him
  • Liz Cable of Reach Further gave an excellent course at Bradford University School of Management.  Liz has an impressive 7,000+ followers.  Her argument was that if she asks her community for help, information, contacts then she expects around 10 people to come back to her with any one request.  If you have a few hundred followers then you will be lucky to get one person responding
  • Michelle Beckett of Linked2Success gave a similar example.  She has 3,000 direct contacts.  This connects her to 1.2 million people through secondary contacts and to 13.8m people through the groups she belongs to.  That is an impressive network to belong to?  It must have an intrinsic value


2. Why you want quality relationships


When I was at Liz Cable’s event, I raised my concern about the numbers game.  Robert Whitehead of Shulmans solicitors, a fellow delegate, said he thought it was ‘consensual spam’.  What a great phrase and I really felt he was right.

Then I came across Karen Clark of My Business Presence in the States.  She wrote a blog which clarified my thoughts – I spotted it in a discussion group, Social Media Club, on Linkedin.

Karen says you should grow organically and she recommends being ‘picky’ about who you link with – and make sure they have the same values as you do.  Her blog created quite a discussion and virtually everyone commenting agreed that organic and quality is best.


3. Link with people who have the same values


I’ve come full circle. After being seduced momentarily by the idea of numbers, I’m now firmly back in the quality relationship camp.

A lot of our clients and journalists really rate our judgement as to the quality of people we do business with.  That reputation takes years to build – I’m not going to destroy it for the sake of vanity.  Having 15,000 followers means nothing to us.  I want to associate with people who will mean something important to us.

Have you made a decision about this yet?  We would love to hear other views.

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Written by Northern Lights


  • Hi Victoria

    Interesting read, thank you.

    Of course, one of the great things about this diverse world we live in is that there is no one size fits all approach to many things in life and social media is probably no different.

    As Michelle Beckett’s business partner, I know we both agree fully with the importance of building a quality network of business connections. However, one of the unique options of being a member of LinkedIn is that we can build a wider, less personal network of connections, whose purpose is to provide us with access to a range of contacts, companies and opportunities we would not have access to by only building a smaller quality network.

    In this case, I believe you can sit on both sides of the fence and still be on the right side.

    Best wishes


  • A guy said to me a few years ago – if I had know back then what I know now (he was talking about girls and stuff but…)

    I guess we tend to bumble about in our private lives bumping into people some we like, some we hate some we take home and some we never speak to again liked or not. Why should this electronic life be any different? As we reach the ripe of old age that we are all at – we look back at our lives and we realise that we are in fact masters of our networks and contacts – we asked that Miss World contestant girl to go out with us and she said yes, we never missed that opportunity…It was all about the looks, she wasn’t that caring, intelligent vivascious creature with a great plan and neither was her mate. All our best and oldest mates from school are on speed dial and we know that they have kids – we never make a mistake in mentioning that unmentionable thing that happened to them. Unforgivable really. At work when someone has an idea that touches on your area – they come to you first – every time – they consider you a vital part in the chain. You bought those Google shares at a cheap rate when they were offered – thankfully sold those other ones on the advice from one of your mates on the speed dial. You never miss your family’s birthdays and anniversaries and are always up on the gossip. We always have time for family get togethers. And if your wife leaves you for the President of that multinational that she’s known since school – at least your little black book is right there at your side – tap tap – with magic numbers between its glowing pages. Anyway, every conversation you have in the pub inspires you and the people you meet, to the last, are always charmers that are really worth sticking in the speed dial. Like sure, if there’s room – what with all those important people that you’ve been tracking over the years. You’ll get through it. Life eh – it’s a darn good job at the out, that you had that chance to step back, look at the plan, work out the whys and what fors and then just thow yourself into it – nappies and all. Well it was just a thought and I’ve said it. Sorry V I know I go on a bit. O.

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