Friends & Followers Are Meaningless

by Jay Deragon on 11/17/2011

According to Oxford University’s professor of evolutionary anthropology, Robin Dunbar, after you have amassed 150 friends on Facebook, any more are meaningless because the human brain can only remember 150 meaningful relationships anyway. Professor Dunbar says this number applies to different societies and has remained unchanged throughout history.

Professor Dunbar’s observation also applies to the current social media craze for followers.  Having 10,000 followers is meaningless. The same applies to “Likes” and in many cases the whole obssession with traffic. In the end who really cares and what is the purpose?  The only people who care are the people chasing bigger numbers than yours and both you and them have no clue as to the purpose of chasing all these numbers.

Meaningless Numbers Create Meaningless Value

When numbers become the mission, you can’t trust the numbers.  Marketers are obsessed with numbers which they use to justify their time, effort and expense.  Liars use numbers to create their truths, not necessarily the truth. Numbers are meaningless without being tied to a purpose.  Forever businesses have measured profits at the end of each month and then going forward decisions are made based on numbers.

Financial numbers are meaningless unless there is an understanding what drives the numbers.  Understanding requires purpose. Profit is not a purpose, its only the result of a purpose. Without purpose there is no meaning.

The Pursuit Of Social Meaning-less

Doc Searls writes: When we say “social” these days, we mostly mean the sites and services ofFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and other commercial entities. Not talking on the phone or in person. Not meeting at a café. Not blogging, or emailing or even texting. Those things are all retro and passé. Worse, they’re not what marketers get high off of these days. Meaning they’re outside the Big Data ecosystem, most of which is devoted to improving the vast business of guesswork we call advertising, flowing outward increasingly through digital media.

I love how Doc so eloquently states the blinding flash of the obvious pursuit of meaningless efforts:)

Ever wonder why marketers think it is important to collect followers, friends and “Likes”? The reason is it fits their outdated meaningless purposes to justify the expense of “hunting and capturing” people for the purpose of commerce.  Ironically commerce doesn’t really work without a marketplace of willing buyers and suppliers. Marketers are playing the social game for the purpose of commerce. Buyers and suppliers aren’t social nor are they friends. They are afterall simply buyers and suppliers and the important matters of meaning is how well “the marketplace performs”. Performance is a process issue that drives profit not the other way around.

Einstein said “Not everything that matters can be measured. Not everything that counts can be counted and … Not everything that can be counted counts.” Read it again slow and think about whether counting friends, followers or likes has meaning that matters.


MagRivera November 21, 2011 at 8:21 am

I am not so sure I agree and I speak to the effectiveness of social media and a high num er of followers is Good IF they are part of the social media circle for your product. Social media is about socializing virtually and I use it to engage my social circle so they can get more firsthand knowledge of my work/services/product scope. I dont intentionally seek to just increase my numbers so I agree with the assessment. If you are getting high numbers just for the sake of having followers and you have no plans of engaging them then it is useless. Insightful article but it is based on the same data marketers use, so it depends on the report you view, no? I say social media and followers is just like socializing, it is up to you to be remembered and engage with your social circles aka followers over 150!

Rex Hammock November 17, 2011 at 7:08 am

I agree with you 100% on the crux of your message, however I disagree with the notion that Einstein said that. ( ) Nonetheless, I do believe the only metrics that matter to marketers should be those that have an impact on the bottomline (increasing revenues, improving margins or lowering costs). Likes and followers may be, at best, proxies for something else, but I’d prefer to focus on encouraging actions that are more directly connected to metrics that can be reflected on the balance sheet.

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