Service Minded

Debra Helwig on Marketing & Leadership in Professional Services

Too Much of a Good Thing

Posted by debrahelwig on April 13, 2009

beanies-tooDo you remember when Beanie Babies were all the rage?

About 15 years ago, these small, understuffed toys were THE thing to collect. They came in every conceivable shape and color. And everybody who was anybody was buying the darn things. Heck, I still have a Beanie flamingo sitting on my desk as I type this blog post!

Like with any collecting fad, though, some people went a little crazier over the Beanie calvacade than others. I remember this one friend of mine who had hundreds of Beanies. Hundreds. The chase and acquisition was thrilling for her.

But here’s the part people didn’t talk about back then: once she had them, she just shoved them in a corner and didn’t do anything with them – except dust them, move them, and have to hassle with them when she wanted to use the space they took up. Very quickly, they became a time drain and added no value to her life.

Too much of a good thing. And it became toxic.

Fast forward to today. We’re still a nation of collectors.  But now, the hottest rage in collections the world over isn’t a stuffed toy, or a game, or any kind of sports memorabilia.

It’s followers on Twitter.

(And friends on Facebook. And connections on LinkedIn. You get the idea.)

No doubt, I get excited when I see a new person is following me on Twitter. And I love finding new connections who teach me cool things, and who let me share my ideas and stories. If you’re online, I bet you do too.

But have you seen a message like this one?

“Just hit 9,999 followers. Help me get to 10,000!”

As if the number of followers mattered a lot more than who the followers were.

Ummmm, no.

Take this as a warning: the acquisition may be a rush, but following and being followed by thousands of people, regardless of their appropriateness for your network, may be just as toxic as a too-large Beanie collection. The white noise they’ll generate is just another version of the “heap of toys in the corner you have to move and dust” – a load dragging on you and preventing you from having fun or getting anything of substance accomplished.

Debbie Weil wrote a great post about this a little over a month ago titled Social Networking is Not Just a Numbers Game. Her advice?

It’s not how many; it’s what you do for your connections. Are you useful in some way? Are you providing value? If the answer is yes, and you create value over time, then you will be able to go back to your network and get something of value to you – whether it’s information or a sale.

So learn from my friend’s Beanies. Raw numbers matter not one whit.

Be selective, and Twitter, Facebook, and every other social media outpost can yield great things.

Stay consumed with your social media statistics, and you’ll probably find yourself suffocating under the electronic equivalent of a mountain of unloved toys.

Photo by Bianca Prime (license).

2 Responses to “Too Much of a Good Thing”

  1. Debra,

    Great post! I remember when I joined Facebook, I tried to accumulate as many “friends” as possible as soon as possible. It really went back to the playground – we all wanted to be popular then and we all want to be popular now. Yet, it’s a ruse. The smart folks cultivate the right network rather than just adding friends or followers for the sake of it.

    So, I’ve shedded the beanie baby mentality and am focusing on the right network for me. People I can learn from and be of help to. Otherwise, it’s all too easy for me to become overwhelmed by the white noise and easily lose my effectiveness (and sanity). When that happens, all those friends or followers won’t be much of a consolation.

    Keep blogging. Your insights are always right on-target!


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