A while back I commented on Aaron Biebert’s blog post, Why @Garyvee Should NOT Stop Tweeting at His Groupies, where he discusses the pros and cons of trying to interact with a million followers (read my comments here, and below). Aaron was of the opinion that rather than spreading himself too thin, Gary Vaynerchuk might do better to try to back off a bit and concentrate on building meaningful relationships with a few rather than tweeting back to EVERYONE on his huge list. That’s a conundrum for lots of brands with growing numbers of social followers. What’s the best course to take when your fans number in the thousands, tens of thousands or more?
If you go back and look at Aaron’s Twitter discussion with Gary in the article, you can see Gary’s passion to be authentic and consistent—ideals we both share regarding social interactions—and Aaron brings up some compelling points, too. Can brands REALLY maintain relationships with an ever-growing number of followers, or does ROR (Return on Relationship™) suffer due to the time constraints of trying to interact with so many?
Aaron notes in his article that, “Most scientists say that we have the ability to maintain relationships with about 300 people, max. Everyone else is in one ear and out the other.” While that may be true, I think you have to make choices about how you interact with people socially based on what works for you and your audience. There’s really no right and wrong here—unless you switch gears entirely and break your “brand promise” to your readership somewhere down the line.
Yes, there’s only so much time to go around, but your audience understands that and appreciates the limited amount of time you can give them. In responding to as many followers that reach out to him as he can, Gary’s being true to his promise to his audience, and I try to do the same with mine. You have to “walk the talk” of engagement, interaction and relationship building or pay the price in brand reputation. Also be sure to understand that it is not only about who you interact with and respond to individually. Many participate in the engagement vicariously through the few. Those who see you interacting with others will feel a part of that interaction simply by observing and knowing you are having those conversations.
For any brand, the important thing to remember is to always be listening to your audience, responding to feedback, and doing the best you can with the time you have. Will it get harder as your audience grows? Undoubtedly. But using Gary as an example, his response promise is a big part of his brand. He’s not going to give it up because that’s who he is as a person (both in real life and online).
It’s when you DON’T practice what you preach that things get sour. In social circles, your audience has an “authenticity meter” that goes off the minute there’s a break in consistency or incongruence with your brand message. You simply have to be true to your message, because your social credibility is something that’s built over time, and ignoring will make it go away!
So can you maintain meaningful relationships with thousands of people at a time? No, but every touch is important, no matter how small. Think of it this way… individual touches are like relationship seeds. You have a much better likelihood of reaping a good harvest when you sow widely, but only if you prepare the ground with value and nurture with authenticity. How you do that is up to you; what’s right for Gary may not be right for someone else with a different audience. There is no cookie cutter approach that will produce the same results for everyone, but whether you’re a one-man show or a company with an entire staff of socially-facing employees, being true to your brand and genuine in your audience interactions will always bear more relationship fruit.
My reply to Aaron’s post:
Ted Rubin I can totally relate to the discussion here Aaron and believe the most important aspect missing is what works for Gary, and others like him, and how it is received by those who he “speaks” to. I say this all the time… there is no right and wrong, there is what works for each of us as an individual and a brand. On a much smaller scale I have a similar challenge as Gary and do my best to respond in a similar fashion. I met Gary f2f four years ago and realized we had a very similar outlook with respect to connecting and responsiveness. He asked me to meet him for wine one evening and upon arriving on the upper east side found out he had 15 minutes to spend with me. Now I could have been miffed that I came all that way for only 15 minutes, or appreciative that he took the time to reach out, ask me to meet, and spend some time with me. I chose the latter as I am sure many who follow him do in their rapid social interactions… and the same as many do with me and the time I give to each. I listen when people give me feedback, gauge what I do regularly, and evolve how I do so all the time. But for the most part I rarely do an about face unless something I am doing is really not working or truly annoying a majority.
Gary, as many of us who are speaking to more and more, is doing what he believes is in the best interest of his brand and for those to whom is responds. I am doing the same.
IMHO we are staying as true to our brand as we can (practicing what we preach)… instead of becoming totally unresponsive and not walking the walk of engagement, interaction, and relationship building (as many other leaders in the space have done as they tell us what to do, but have stopped even trying to do it themselves). 1 month ago