Andy Vaughn

Dunbar’s Number

Dunbar’s Number is a theory suggesting that there is a limit to the number of stable social relationships one can keep track of and maintain.

From Wikipedia:

It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150.

When I first started on Twitter, I had a difficult time getting beyond 130 followers. I tweeted frequently, with value, using hash-tags, at optimal high-traffic times of the day, and engaged with other “Tweeters.” But, these all had little effect on increasing my follower-count.

Getting Beyond Dunbar

I discovered that I did indeed know every one of my followers, and could name the relationship connection, referral, or time of meet. But, was this what I was after in a short-form broadcast interaction medium like Twitter?

Dunbar’s Number was brought to my attention (I wish I could remember from whom), and I realized I had a problem.

The problem I discovered was that I was looking for a wider audience to send my announcements to, while also having a value-rich feed from which I could extract news and new subject material.

So, I created a method of systematically targeting individuals with my tweets, retweets, and follows, and creating a value-rich feed system that quickly took my follower count from 130 to the 750 or so that it is today.

I’m not saying that 750 followers makes me a social media guru or Twitter magnate. But, when I need to spread the message of new workshops or client designs getting launched, I now have an almost 6X increase in platform for my message than I had before.

Keep in mind Dunbar’s number when you consider your next product launch: are you relationship-building or systematizing contacts for quick broadcast/extraction.

As an added tidbit, Kevin Kelly suggests that all you need is “1,000 true fans”. Perhaps his number is too ambitious considering Dunbar’s theory.

Homework: Is it equally as difficult to go from 150 to 1k true fans as it is to go from 150 to 10k considering the systems needed to discover, obtain, foster, and deal with contact attrition?

Posted by Andy on October 16, 2012

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