Your numbers are lying to you.

Many of you know that I’m a rather “prolific” twitterer. I spend plenty of time on the microblogging application and like to read what’s posted by many of those that I’m following. However, one thing that I’ve grown to accept is that the number of followers and followees doesn’t mean that much compared to the type of people that are following you. Personally, I’ve found myself trying to increase the number of people I connect with, but if you’re planning on fully using it as a business tool, you better be aware that the potency of just a few people can be greater than having thousands of people in your influence. It’s just a matter of just who you’re networked with.

A good example would be with a recent initiative to get visibility on a wiki I created for those attending South by Southwest. About a month ago, as I thought about all the parties, sessions and networking events, one thing that crossed my mind was about how to get people to talk to one another. So using PBWiki, I created a wiki (see blog post). But just today, a good friend created a similar wiki and immediately had a higher response than me. Why? Because she has gained status of an influencer. Granted that she has several thousand followers, but within those numbers are at least a few other influencers that can spread the word.

Sure, maybe you’re not impressed by all this news. Maybe you think that there are other applications out there like FollowCost or Twitter Grader that will justify your position in the sphere of influence online. The truth is that Twitter is primarily a conversation tool. This is the same with all forms of social media. Don’t get yourself caught up in the hype. As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Sure, you may have a Twitter grade of 99.5 but in reality what does it truly mean? If you take a test in school and get a 95 versus a 100, is there any difference? You’d still receive an A for the exam and for all intense and purposes everyone will still think you’re smart. So where’s the validity in how you score? You need to prove that you’re much more above the numbers and demonstrate that you have something intellectual and interesting to say. Save the popularity contest for your student council and high school years. It’s what you say that will showcase why people should listen to you.

For businesses, I really don’t think amassing a huge listing of followers is necessarily a must-hit target. This approach is probably a business objective within your company to help determine how successful the social media program is…in effect an ROI for the sales people. But what type of long-term conversion will result from this? Probably not a lot. But before you start thinking differently, let me tell you that I’m not saying to limit those into your social circle. On the contrary, if people want to follow you or become a fan of your brand online, then let them. You should, though, actively seek out the advice and influence of those key players in your industry. Specifically in the web industry, having the insights from folks like Leo Laporte, Shel Israel, Chris Heuer, Jeremiah Owyang, Geoff Livingston and others within your contact list could prove very vital in promoting your cause. Just who are you looking at to attract in your industry? Bring those thought-leaders into networking with you andonce you’ve struck up a chord with them, maybe they will help evangelize your product to their massive followers and from there you can watch it spread.

Still not convinced about the false theory over social media numbers? I’d suggest you read Jennifer Leggio’s blog post on ZDNet (“I am popular on Twitter. Here’s why this means nothing”).

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."