Prattle & Jaw

Copy, blogs, and bits and bobs

Quantity not Quality?

I recently came across this video by Thomas Power, about the 'Law of Big Numbers' - flipping the adage 'quality not quantity', when talking about social media, or networking.

I'm going to be blunt, and say I think this is a load of crap. Sorry, Thomas.

I started wondering about the numbers game when I first joined Facebook...er..a while back. Browsing through people's profiles (hardly anyone had them set to private back then....), I came across people with thousands of friends. I couldn't help wonder who has 3000 friends. I occasionally received (and still do) friend requests from people I had never heard of, and with whom I share no aquaintances, and I reply to these requests with a very short but sweet email asking if we have indeed met at some point, as I might well have forgotten (perhaps we went to school together when I was 7, who knows). I've never received a reply to any of these mails, and that only confirms my belief that people simply randomly add friends. Why? I just don't understand the point. I myself have just over 300 friends, and I'll tell you now that I don't talk to them all. In fact, some I've not talked to since I was 13. Many are clubs, bars, groups, associations, magazines and so forth, but many are just people with whom it's nice to be back in touch with. But I already get sick and tired of all the crap in my newsfeed - thank God for the 'hide' option...

Anyway, my point is that I don't understand the concept of the popularity contest on Facebook - or whatever you want to call it. Who on earth in their right mind judges someone on how many Facebook friends they have? Oh, right...me.

Well, Facebook is not, despite what you may think, the culprit in question in this post. It is - to no great surprise - Twitter.

Thomas Power talks for around 3 minutes about the Law of Big Numbers, and below, I've transcribed the bits I want to nitpick (let's face it, that's what I'm doing). I might be missing a word or two, but I've not changed the meaning....

"I see quality as an output and quantity as an input."

"You build a network, and you'll do some business with 1 in 100 people, do good business with 1 in 1000, and 1 in 10,000 will become mentors, torch holders, guiders, whatever."

"So there's financial gain from having a big network, 1 in 100, 1 in 1000. The 1 in 10,000 is the emotional gain."

"The other power is that you get a flow towards you, you get information coming towards you, people phoning you, asking you to do talks, asking questions giving you information. This gives you more knowledge. People start to judge you by the size of your network."

"People tell me its nonsense, but then I look at them jumping on the Twitter bandwagon and what are they all focused on on Twitter? They’re focused on the number of followers they have. Why? Because that’s about quantity, scale and branding, and being known."

"When Twitter came along and thought ‘oh at last, people are realising that networks are about quantity as an input and quality as an output, and whether you have 1000 followers or 10, you get greater value from having a bigger network than having a smaller one, and to me that is the law of big numbers."

Some of this makes sense to me...quantity as an input and quality as an output - I can understand that. In order to get something really good, chances are you'll have to trawl through a lot of crap to get the good stuff.

The '1 in 10,000 as the emotional gain' bit, I also agree with. That's what counts today - emotional currency, intangibles, call it what you will, but I'm not sure how he links that to having a big network. I mean, if you have, say 10,000 followers on Twitter, the likelihood that you'll give exceptional service, or pay undivided attention to, or *enter something intangible here*, to just one follower, is extremely slim. Most likely as you'll have so many Tweets coming in every hour, that picking up on just that one, probably won't happen. The more Tweets, the busier you are, the busier you are, the less time you have, the less time you have, the less one-to-one attention you're likely to spend, and so on.

Yes, you might get a flow of information towards you, but, as said above, this flow quickly turns in to a torrent of information, and how can you pick out the good ones?

He then suddenly links this flow of information to his claim of people judging you by the size of your Twitter network. Really? I mean, the whole CNN and Ashton thing aside, does anyone really care, and if so, do they really think that having more followers means you're 'better'? Perhaps to a point. I won't follow someone who has 1 person in their network. But I'm far more likely to investigate exactly who they follow, and who is following them. This to me is quality, not quantity, and it is quality I seek.

Doesn't this 'law' almost defeat exactly what Twitter is/was heralded for? This being 'close' to your favourite brand/celebrity/friend/, this being able to reach your consumer directly. Doesn't this law just turn it in to 'traditional advertising'? A bombardment of information, most of which is lost, if not ignored? I still stand by quality not quantity. I already get frustrated with all the Tweets I receive. There are a handful of people I follow who are my little supernodes. They Tweet, and another, much larger, handful of people RT these, and so I get these as well. Occasionally, this happens 5 fold. 5 is enough for me, thank you very much. I'm willing to follow more people, but when it's a certain field you're interested in, you run the risk of being smothered with with RTs. So why would I want to follow even more?

Quality, my friends. The adage has lasted for a reason, and anything that turns it around doesn't last long.

Here's another nice blog post about the same thing; nice blog post.

Copyright © 2014, Lara Mulady. All rights reserved.